LENOX -- The state's top public safety and security executive will get a first-hand briefing on Berkshire County's crime issues during a roundtable discussion organized by state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli.
Secretary of Public Safety and Security Andrea Cabral, sworn in by Gov. Deval Patrick on Jan. 21 after he named her to the cabinet post in December, will meet with local police and fire chiefs, building inspectors, emergency dispatchers and officials from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office and the Berkshire District Attorney's Office. The 10 a.m. session is at the Lenox Town Hall on Friday, March 15.
The entire Berkshire delegation of lawmakers has been invited to attend the forum, Pignatelli said, as well as a private lunch. The discussion marks Cabral's first official visit to the Berkshires.
"Andrea and I have been friends for several years," Pignatelli told The Eagle. They met during her 10-year stint as Suffolk County sheriff in Boston. She had been appointed in 2002 by Gov. Jane Swift.
"She's a wonderful woman and public safety is in her wheelhouse," said Pignatelli. The goal is to give her a better understanding of the county's rural nature, he added, with specific attention on the epidemic of opiate drugs.
"It's a broad-brush introduction to the Berkshires," he explained. "I hope she'll return to visit groups like the Railroad Street Youth Project in Great Barrington that aid at-risk young people.
Cabral, the first female sheriff of Suffolk County, could not be reached for comment.
"The reforms she has enacted and the re-entry programs she developed have made our community stronger and safer while giving people the tools they need to find a way forward," Patrick said at her swearing-in ceremony.
At a recent gathering of the state Legislature's Joint Committee on Ways and Means held at Worcester State University, Cabral referred to Patrick's proposed $1.9 billion revenue-raising proposal.
"We are investing to preserve what we have today to make sure it is fiscally sustainable tomorrow," Cabral said. She told reporters the tax hikes are essential and without them, the budget picture would be "drastic."
Cabral, 53, is a native of East Providence, R.I., and earned her degrees from Boston College and Suffolk University Law School. She is leading a working group aimed at obtaining consistent funding for sheriff departments. Recommendations for Gov. Patrick are due by July 1.
Information from the Boston Globe was included in this report.
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