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After claiming he never endorsed broken windows policing at debate, Berkshire DA candidate Shugrue explains a second instance where he publicly backed it

Timothy Shugrue.
Josh Landes
Timothy Shugrue.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts attorney Timothy Shugrue is running for Berkshire District Attorney in the September 6th Democratic primary. In his bid to unseat first-term progressive Andrea Harrington, Shugrue has described her as inexperienced, characterized her reform efforts as an “awful experiment,” and said that the office must once again prosecute lower level crimes, dismiss fewer cases, and work more closely with law enforcement. In a debate on Pittsfield Community Television earlier this month, Shugrue claimed to have never endorsed the controversial practice of broken windows policing — a claim WAMC investigated and disproved. Shugrue appeared to back the concept – one he attacked as racist weeks later – in a WTBR interview in July. In a statement to WAMC, Shugrue said he had forgotten about the comments and that he should have made his opposition clear at the time. On Thursday, WAMC sat down with Shugrue in his Pittsfield office to discuss a quote from his 2004 DA campaign where he once again appeared to endorse broken windows policing, as well as his recent campaign press release that says Harrington has let down Berkshire youth.

SHUGRUE: Well, the thing that I saw differently was, and I’ve spoken to a lot of people that were in that community outreach program and education program, they call it COE, Community Outreach and Education program, that had existed for many years. There's also prior to that, along with COE, there was also the youth advisory board that I know Miss Harrington talks about that she utilized that, but that was one that's been established for many years within that office. So that's a program that had existed. What I was concerned about was removing the educational aspect of it that was throughout the schools throughout Berkshire County. And that starts from grade three up to grade seven, and it deals with the anti-bullying, self-esteem, all sorts of different types of awareness programs for the kids. Sort of like the MAD and SAD programs were earlier when they were dealing with the drugs and alcohol issues regarding children. So I thought that was a really an important part, and I think that it was an, I think it's a necessary part for prevention purposes. So I'm a big believer in using those prevention purposes within the school system. I know that a lot of kids liked it, I know the teachers liked it. So I would like to re-implement that program back as it existed prior to Mrs. Harrington trimming those programs.

WAMC: Harrington's predecessor, Paul Caccaviello, who I know is a donor to your campaign, when he lost in the Democratic primary in 2018, he ran a general election write-in campaign. Let's say you lose in the primary- At this point, would you accept that as the end of the line for you? Or would there be a future with a write-in campaign à la Mr. Caccaviello’s efforts?

I don't anticipate there being a write-in campaign. If you're telling us that we're 100 votes apart, then that may be a different situation. But I don't anticipate it being that. I don't anticipate either side of us being that way. My hope is that the voters speak their points, and I'm going to go from there. And so that's why we're putting the effort in. We've been doing five and a half months, I've worked real hard, I’m working almost 90 hours a week, I’m at every possible function. So, we're putting our effort and time into this now. So that's what we hope, that the election happens, but I don't anticipate that happening.

There was a bit of a back and forth about this idea of broken windows policing that came up at the PCTV debate where, at the time, you had vociferously said that this is not something that you had endorsed or spoken about, and it turned out that it had, and you provided a comment about the context for that. I just wanted to sort of put it out there- You know, at this point, do you think, based on your history and based on your historic stances on this issue, that that issue is put to bed? Or is there anything left out there involving you and broken windows policing?

Well, I hope it's been put to bed because I've never changed my philosophy and policy. What I said from day one is I think it's important that we prosecute people that are involved with drug use, but not do broken windows. See, there’s two parts of broken windows. And I don't endorse broken windows at all. I've never endorsed that. [WTBR host William] Sturgeon brought that up, and I, and he's an older gentleman and I was going and talking to him. I didn't have a chance to explain the second part of that. I'm talking about sweating the small stuff, getting small crimes. I think it's important, and I'll stay with this position. I've said it from day one, I think it's important to get people help that are on substance use disorders. If they have a problem with addiction, whether it's alcohol or drugs, I want to address that. I don't want convictions, I want a diversion program. And so everybody knows, just because you get charged doesn't mean you get convicted. I don't want convictions on these cases. But I want to give people the opportunity for help, because I know heroin addicts will not find the substance abuse help that they need without somebody directing them. So I was hoping we could use the resources and the probation department which sets you up to have substance abuse counseling. Set it up for them, you give them the chance to get off drugs. And so that's the important point about that. The second part of that was about the thefts. $1,200 is was a lot of money, and anything below $1,200 and anything above $1,200 becomes a felony. Anything below that, those cases are being dismissed. And that's a lot of money for people like Carr Hardware. I know that, for example, even Walmart, I think they lost $1.5 million out of the city, at the Pittsfield store last year. So there's a lot of theft going on. But there's also a problem with that. Let’s address, why is someone stealing? Is there a substance use disorder? I would bet you that most times that there is. So we need to address the substance use disorder and also look at the underlying root cause. What's causing this, is there post-traumatic stress, is there something from before that's enabling people to do this because merchants and stores are finding people come back three or four times after their cases are dismissed and still being, stealing from them. So it's a problem. I want to give the people the help for that. And I’ve said that since day one. Mr. Sturgeon just said, he compared that to broken windows. But what broken windows, what people don't realize, is what New York Police Department did that we would never tolerate is they use racial profiling. They use racial bias. They harass people. They gave strict punishments. We don't want punishments on this. We want to help people out. That's what I’ve said since day one. So that's been misplayed and played up. That's not what we want. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about diversion. I've talked about prosecuting tough crimes, but also at the same time doing diversion. I've done criminal defense work for 28 years. I've dealt with people on a daily basis, how to get them through this process with help to end up with no conviction. I've been very successful with that.

So I'm holding here a copy of the North Adams Transcript from 2004 about your campaign for DA against then incumbent David Capeless. This is a quote from that article: “’Crime fighting and citizen protection must occur on the streets and in the courtroom and the public should be aware of the area's problems and potential solutions,’ Shugrue said. A district attorney should be approachable and visible, he said, and noted the crime prevention strategies of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. ‘If Giuliani could take the streets back, then there's no reason we can't as well,' said Shugrue. ‘We have to be visible, people need to know what’s going on, and the more information you have out there, the better. People need to feel safe and they don't right now.’ In that context, that certainly seems like pretty objectively an endorsement of broken windows policing given that Mr. Giuliani, certainly in the early aughts, would have been most associated with that theory of policing.

Right, but that's before we found out what they were doing. We didn't know that. The whole idea of let's attack the small crimes and take care of those issues, he did it 180-degrees different from what I'm saying. So when that was originally written 18 years ago, we didn't know that they were racial profiling. We didn't know they were harassing and they were punishing people excessively. We found that out, and that's why we don't do that. So that's why I've taken the other 180-degree difference, which is to say, listen, we're going to tackle these problems and give people help, not harsh punishments, not harass people, and not use racial profiling and racial bias in marginalized communities and going after them. Once we found out what they were doing in New York, we did not accept that whatsoever. So the idea of, let's take a look at the problems that we have in Berkshire County, let's address them, let's use the diversion programs to help people out. I think it's important to do both things as a district attorney: To prosecute the tough crimes, at the same time too, help people out that have difficulties with either substance abuse disorder or some underlying problem. It could be mental health issues that’s why people are stealing, and what's happening. So I just think kicking the can down the road is not the answer. And I've said that. And if you remember, in 2004, I ran against the old boy network. I ran against the David Capelesses and the people that were pushing that type of this tough philosophy. I ran on a social platform, but Pittsfield wasn't ready for it in 2004. We saw the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018, and the county is ready, but I've been talking about that for many, many years. In fact, I've been talking about this as a defense lawyer, getting rid of the minimum mandatories. And that's why we were so happy about the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018, a lot of those things went away. School zone cases, all the drug cases with marijuana was just atrocious in the 80s and 90s that we had to deal with.

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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