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Pittsfield City Council Presses Mayor For Gun Violence Plan

A stone building with a colonnade.
Josh Landes
The city hall of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council is asking Mayor Linda Tyer to present a plan to address rising gun violence at its next meeting in July.

The unanimous vote Tuesday night was triggered by a petition from Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell.

“I'm asking for the mayor to address the city council and the city asking for her plan in eliminating the gun violence that's been happening in the city in the past few weeks,” said Connell.

According to data provided to WAMC by the Pittsfield Police Department, the city has recorded more than 20 validated shots fired incidents as of June 2021. In 2019, the department recorded 26 over the course of the entire year, and around 40 in 2020.

“I was at a gathering almost three weeks ago in the center of Pittsfield," said Connell. "And I met several residents, especially who live on the West Side, who have been subjected to dealing with the gun violence that's been happening in the city. They were the ones that were asking for the plan. What is the mayor's plan? I would like her to come back to the next council meeting, to let the council and the city know what her plan is to address this issue, and to hopefully correct it as soon as possible.”

The PPD says it’s increased staffing in locations prone to shootings, and called on city residents to assist in curbing gun violence earlier this month after a run of a dozen shootings in May, mostly concentrated around the downtown.

Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, who lives in the West Side, said the closest shooting happened within 50 feet of his home.

“I got cameras all the way around the outside of my house because we live in fear down here," he said. "People will not walk the street. We live in fear down here. But yet we have the mayor who has not addressed this topic or the citizens of Pittsfield. Shame on her. And I wish she was here tonight. How many more shootings have to happen? How many more people have to get shot before somebody makes a stand and tells us what's going on?”

Tyer, who was not at the meeting, did not respond to a request for comment from WAMC, but did discuss gun violence in an interview earlier in the month.

“Well guess what, the citizens want answers," continued Maffuccio. "We are in fear down here. We don't walk our streets, We can't walk our streets, because we don't know who the next target is and who the next innocent bystander is. I ask all you guys who are not in 6A or 7A, come on down. Walk the West Side during the nighttime. Tell me how safe you feel.”

In the June 7th interview with WAMC, Tyer said the city was working with state and federal entities to address gun violence.

“I really don't have a sense of what's triggered this recent spate," said the mayor. "I mean, it’s known to us that we are a destination city for gun trafficking. And that's why we have been working with the ATF to submit evidence of all manner of gun crime evidence so that we can try to identify in greater detail how to disrupt and interrupt this flow of guns into our city.”

The unanimous 10-councilor vote to press Tyer for a gun violence plan did not include At-Large City Councilor Earl Persip, who was absent from the meeting.

The Pittsfield city council meets next on July 13th in a planned return to in-person meetings.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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