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Harrington Announces New Violent Crime Section For Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force

A row of people standing in front of an ambulance and fire truck behind a white woman at a clear plastic lectern and microphone
Josh Landes
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington in Hinsdale, Massachusetts on September 29th, 2021.

Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington is expanding the county’s law enforcement task force to include a new section dedicated to violent crime.

Outside the Hinsdale, Massachusetts Fire Department Wednesday, the district attorney was flanked by county law enforcement officials and vehicles to make the announcement.

“The new violent crime section assembles officers from various local departments throughout the county to jointly investigate sexual assaults, high risk domestic violence and human trafficking cases,” said Harrington.

Eight officers from the Great Barrington, Lee, Pittsfield, Hinsdale and North Adams police departments will make up the new section.

“The law enforcement task force began as a collaboration between detectives in the Pittsfield police department and troopers assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office," said the DA. "It has since blossomed into a sophisticated and dedicated unit to investigate major drug trafficking operations. Today's expansion will build on that legacy and broaden its impact to touch some of our most vulnerable victims.”

Harrington’s office will fund overtime costs for local officers who are assigned to the new section, with an estimated $110,000 price tag based on 2020 expenditures.

“The violent crime section will provide additional resources to tackle historically under investigated gender based violence in our community," she continued. "This section will support local departments in complicated and complex criminal investigations that would often otherwise be the sole responsibility of a patrol officer. They will initiate and execute investigations that cross town borders, which is absolutely critical to this work.”

Harrington, a first-term Democrat, articulated what distinguished the new section from other subdivisions of the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force.

“So we have the high risk initiative, that's the domestic violence high risk initiative," she explained. "So those are the individual providers and responders that are responding to particular cases and doing ongoing monitoring and intervention as needed, and they meet on a monthly basis. That's more of a communication, prevention type measures. And then we have the domestic sexual violence task force, which is a community effort to change the culture of violence against women in Berkshire County. This group is really dedicated to the investigation piece, which we found in our prosecutions is something that, in order to prosecute cases and to get convictions, that we found that we really do need to have more thorough investigations.”

“During my career, I worked as a sexual assault investigator and I know that it takes time, resources and most importantly passion to protect and serve the community to do these investigations into these types of crimes," said Hinsdale Police Chief Susan Rathbun. She heads a department with a fiscal year 2022 operating budget of just under $340,000 in the community of around 2,000.

“Small agencies like mine rise to the occasion when asked to do more for less," said Rathbun. "We do not sacrifice public safety when faced with staffing, and budgetary challenges. I see this partnership as a tool to enhance the work we do every day, and to bring the additional expertise and more resources and the ability to be more proactive policing to each and every section of Berkshire County.”

2nd Berkshire District State Representative Paul Mark, of neighboring Peru, said the establishment of the new section is timely.

“If anyone lived through COVID, and I know we all did, living in one of the hill towns myself, it was extremely isolating, it was extremely lonely,
said Mark. "It was a very stressful, difficult time. And we've seen that translate into the increase in domestic violence, the increases in gender based violence. And it's so important that as we emerge from this pandemic that we work together as county and state officials and town officials and police departments and law enforcement to make sure that we're doing everything possible to not leave these problems in the shadows, to bring them out into the open to make sure people are getting the resources and the help they need.”

Harrington told reporters she anticipates a report to be issued on the activities of the violent crime section in about six months.

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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