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New England News

Public Safety Funds OKed After Downtown Shootings

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A western Massachusetts city is stepping up efforts to combat crime that has impacted the downtown business district.  Chicopee is deploying additional police officers and planning to install surveillance cameras.

 City councilors authorized $700,000 to combat what Chicopee police say is an increase in gang-related crime.   $200,000 will be spent to install surveillance cameras at 11 locations in Chicopee Center. The rest of the money will go into a special public safety account that can be used for such things as police overtime.  The money was requested by Mayor Richard Kos.

" This is something we take seriously, and by taking it seriously early enough in a difference can be made," he said.

Kos met with about two dozen downtown business owners and residents and pledged a swift response after two men were wounded in separate shootings last month.

Mayor Kos and Chicopee Police Chief William Jebb were scheduled to hold a follow-up meeting Monday with the concerned downtown stakeholders.  Chicopee Chamber of Commerce President Eileen Drumm said she is encouraged by the city’s swift response.

"A lot of things were under the radar and it took two back-to-back shootings for the community to say ' we have a problem here.' And, the response has been swift," said Drumm.

Two people were wounded in separate shootings in Chicopee Center in September. Both shootings occurred around 9:30 in the evening. Two 19-year-old Springfield men have been arrested in connection with one of the shootings.

Police say the violence stemmed from gangs of youth fighting over territory and the control of drug trafficking downtown. 

Jebb said since the shootings police have flooded the downtown with increased patrols, including officers on foot and on bicycles as well as police in plain clothes.  Help has also come from the U.S. DEA and a regional law enforcement task force that specializes in countering gang activity. 

" We are taking a zero tolerance, a proactive, and hotspot policing approach," said Jebb.

 Police say several recent arrests have been made on downtown streets of people wanted on outstanding warrants.

Plans were in the works well before the recent violence to put surveillance cameras downtown, according to the city’s technology projects manager Robert Liswell.

" We have multi styles of cameras that will be deploying to a recorder at the police station, where dispatchers can look at live or recorded video. We'll also make it available in time on a city webpage," he said.

 Infrastructure, including fiber optic underground cables and Wi-Fi, is already in place downtown to support a video surveillance system.

The Chicopee Electric Light Co. has identified where additional street lighting is needed downtown.

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