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Plans Announced To Boost Public Safety As MGM Springfield Nears Completion

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    Plans have been announced for a permanent expanded police presence in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts in advance of the scheduled opening next year of the MGM casino.

   City officials said Monday that a police substation will be put in a building on Dwight Street across from the MassMutual Center and roughly a block east of where the $950 million resort casino is under construction.  The planned locations of a series of police kiosks, or booths, downtown were also revealed.

    The substation will serve as the base for a new Metro Area Police Unit that will consist of 41 specially trained officers and supervisors.

    MGM, as part of its casino development agreement with the city, is paying $1.5 million to support the additional downtown police presence. The casino is projected to draw 10,000 visitors a day.

    Plans to beef up public safety downtown were announced by Mayor Domenic Sarno in March 2016 as part of an enhanced policing initiative that called for the largest police department hirings in more than 20 years.

  "Having a strong police presence not only downtown but in our neighborhoods brings a sense of security and brings that sense of investment," Sarno said.

    46 cadets graduated from the police academy last fall. A new police academy of 50 recruits has been budgeted to begin later this year.

     Police Commissioner John Barbieri said the new police unit in the Metro Center will be deployed roughly six months ahead of the scheduled opening of the MGM casino in September 2018.

   "It is our intention to man the Metro Area to the level to provide services to the businesses, the casino, and restaurants for the people who decide to live, work, and play in the Metro Area, but also to provide an uninterrupted level of service to the rest of the community," said Barbieri.

   The police booths will be located at Main and Taylor Streets, Main and Morris Streets and in Riverfront Park.  The booths will be lighted and staffed round-the-clock.

   " The goal is a holistic approach to that area to make it as safe as possible for people to live, work, and play in," explained Barbieri.

   Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said the public safety initiative is part of a comprehensive effort to bring activity and restore vitality throughout the downtown area.

    The police substation will be located next to long-blighted Pynchon Plaza.  The two-level park has a water fountain and an elevator – neither of which has worked in decades.  The park has been fenced off from the public for years and several attempts have failed to come up with the money city officials say is needed for repairs.

 

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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