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Springfield Attempts Crackdown On Street Racers


        The overall crime rate is said to be down a bit this year in the largest city in western Massachusetts, but complaints about quality of life offenses are up.

      The latest scourge to draw a crackdown by police in Springfield is illegal street racing.  

       According to police it involves up to 100 participants who move around to parking lots in the city’s North End and Metro areas on weekend nights looking for a stretch of street with no traffic where they can race their cars.

       "This is very danagerous," said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.  He said partcipants, spectators and police officers are all in harms way.

        The police department assigned officers to a special detail after receiving numerous complaints from residents and businesses about illegal racing and loitering in gas station and restaurant parking lots.

    " I am getting sick and tired of this lawlessness, as are many people I am hearing from," said Sarno.

     Last summer, Springfield police were cracking down on illegal dirt bikes – which are still a problem according to authorities.  And earlier this year after the warm weather arrived, there were hundreds of complaints every night for weeks about illegal fireworks.

     Last weekend during the effort to crack down on street racers, a police officer fired his gun as a speeding car was coming straight at him.

     The incident which happened at about 1 a.m. Sunday on Main Street in the city’s North End, was recorded by one of the police department’s new body cameras.

     Deputy Chief Steven Kent said he reviewed the footage.

     "It appears at this time, the officers actions were justified, " Kent said Monday.

     The bullet from the officer’s gun struck the windshield of the car.  The driver, who was apparently not hit, fled from the area.

      Another officer assigned to the street racing crackdown was injured when his cruiser was rear-ended.   The operator of the vehicle was charged with drunken driving.  The officer was treated at a hospital and released.

       Eight people were arrested last weekend as part of the crackdown. A police spokesman said charges included loitering, making excessive noise, and motor vehicle violations.

      Quality of life offenses aside, overall crime in Springfield is down 3 percent so far this year, according to Sarno.

       Springfield police, as of last Friday, had seized 86 firearms this year, according to police spokesman.

        "I directly attribute not having a spike in our murders to those (gun) seizures," said Kent.

         12 people have been murdered in Springfield so far this year. He said that is the same number as of this time a year ago.

       Springfield had 20 murders in 2019.

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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