Authorities in Springfield, Massachusetts are set to expand an innovative community policing program that has garnered national attention.
The anti-crime initiative called C-3 Policing will be brought to three city neighborhoods nearly six years after it was introduced in Springfield’s North End where it is credited with dramatically reducing gang related crime and violence.
" This is not a police initiative, this is a community initiative," said Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri, who supervised the initiative in the North End when he was a deputy chief, and committed to expanding it to additional city neighborhoods when he became commissioner last year.
The other parts of the city that will be covered by this anti-crime approach are in the South End, Mason Square, and Forest Park neighborhoods. It comprises just three percent of the city’s total area, but accounts for 12 percent of the city’s total crime.
The program uses teams of local police and Massachusetts State Police who work closely with residents and business owners in the neighborhoods to gather information on criminal activity. It is modeled in part on tactics used by the U.S. military to counter insurgents during the war in Iraq.
" This is not military tactics. It is not fast-roping out of helicopters, and road blocks, and asking people for IDs," said Barbieri.
Total crime in the area of the North End where the program operates fell 20 percent between 2008 and 2014 according to information from the mayor’s office given to reporters at Monday’s announcement.
Jose Claudio of the New North Citizens Council attended the first meeting with police as they tried to get the program going six years ago. He said he was heartsick about the gang violence that was claiming the lives of young people.
The early participants in the initiative had to overcome the “anti-snitch culture” and complacency about crime that had settled over the neighborhood. Now, he said there are more than 60 people who meet faithfully every Thursday with the community police officers to share information.
" I think the secret to it is getting residents involved and having the right police officers working together, " he said Monday. " It is exciting. It has made a big difference in our neighborhood."
Nicola Manion, of the Forest Park Civic Association, said she welcomes the program to her neighborhood.
" Personally I am very excited. I think this is going to really change the dynamics of the city," she said.
C-3 stands for Counter Criminal Continuum. The anti-crime program was featured on a “60 Minutes” broadcast in 2013.
Barbieri said several other U.S. cities and police departments overseas have followed Springfield’s lead in putting the program into place to combat gang violence.