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Pittsfield Mayor Takes Stand, Seeks More Officers In Wake Of Shootings

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer is joined by law enforcement, school and community leaders for a press conference in Pittsfield City Hall Monday.
Jim Levulis
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer is joined by law enforcement, school and community leaders for a press conference in Pittsfield City Hall Monday.

The mayor of Pittsfield and law enforcement leaders addressed a recent spate of gun incidents in the city Monday. "I have had enough and I will not allow the city of Pittsfield to be overrun by this or any other criminal element,” Mayor Linda Tyer said. “To all who threaten our city, I am not going to stand down while you terrorize our neighborhoods."

Tyer says there is a great deal of anxiety in Pittsfield in the wake of a half dozen shootings in the past few weeks. Surrounded by city, county and state law enforcement, the Democrat says gang and gun violence needs to be acknowledged, adding that each violent incident threatens the city’s sense of security and potential.

“To all of those engaged in gang and gun violence or any other criminal behavior, you will have the full measure of the attention of this mayor and from the law enforcement partners that have joined me here today,” Tyer said. “We are going to make it very uncomfortable for you to engage in criminal behavior. If you endanger a child or interfere with Pittsfield’s aspiring youth we will intervene.”

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn says it’s known that the city has nationally-recognized street gangs and is now seeing locally-controlled gangs forming in response to them and law enforcement’s targeting of those national gangs. While recent shootings remain under investigation, he says it’s a good guess they’re gang-related. Wynn says his department is still trying to get a handle on membership numbers.

"These numbers are not specific because we've changed the way we codify our response to shots fired calls, but as of this morning we have 30 reported gun incidents in this calendar year,” Wynn said. “That was our total for all of last year."

Tyer says the police department has been understaffed and Chief Wynn’s calls for additional officers have been ignored for too long. Tyer started a four-year term in January.

“A city of our size should have 120 sworn officers,” Tyer said. “We are currently operating with 82 and will approach an all-time low this summer due to transfers and retirements. Not one more day will this plea for help in personnel go disregarded.”

Tyer says 11 recruits are heading to the department and the city has requested another 12 from the state. But she says those recruits will only maintain the staffing level. Tyer says the fiscal 2017 budget she plans to present next week will include funding for six additional police personnel and equipment totaling nearly $1 million. Tyer says the officers should be available in the fall. In the meantime, Wynn says shift and division commanders are reallocating resources as they see fit and requesting additional officers from nearby law enforcement agencies on a day-to-day basis.

"There are public safety partners that you all don’t necessarily think of that have more direct impact and that’s where we’re focusing our attention,” Wynn said. “We’ve been engaged in intelligence sharing meetings with probation, parole and department of youth services. Our interim plan is to try to arrest as many of these identified players as we can in the next couple of weeks and hopefully have them held so they're not on the streets. That's the short-term plan.”

Tyer acknowledged that gangs and gun violence have many root causes and pointed to programs like the Pittsfield Community Connection that seek to connect young people with mentors and engage them in positive activities.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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