Addressing Pittsfield's crime problem means acknowledging its reality and accepting that it will cost money to address. Mayor Linda Tyer on Monday did both.
At a press conference, the mayor said she would respond to a rash of recent crimes and shootings by proposing an additional $936,000 to her fiscal 2017 budget for police personnel and equipment. The police department has long been grievously understaffed, its 82 officers far short of the 120 that would be appropriate for a city of its size.
The immediate problem is that the lengthy recruitment and training process means that additional officers will not be available until what after what may be a long, hot summer. Hiring officers from other communities is difficult because of Pittsfield's low level of pay.
Pittsfield has saved money over the years by keeping its police department staff levels and salaries artificially low, but there was a price to pay for doing so and the city is paying it. The mayor said Monday she will balance the nearly $1 million in expenditures for the police department within her overall budget proposal, but that level of cuts will almost assuredly afflict harm elsewhere within the city. Keeping spending low in the short-term can, and has been, costly in the long term.
Mayor Tyer said Monday that the city must acknowledge that "gang and gun violence is real," and her insistence that the city face that uncomfortable reality is critical to changing it. In recent years, the crime problem was downplayed and assurances routinely made that crime was confined to certain (low-income) neighborhoods. Allowed to fester, it did. A problem anywhere in the city is the entire city's problem, and Pittsfield can't put its head in the sand or fixate on counterproductive attempts to protect its image when it must confront tangible and serious challenges.
The criminal violence in Pittsfield or any American city is dramatically compounded by the ready availability of guns (Eagle editorial, May 23). Unfortunately, there is nothing any mayor can do about a mess that Congress, largely bought off and intimidated by the National Rifle Association, refuses to address.
Within the limited parameters of what she can do, however, Mayor Tyer appears determined to take significant action. The mayor's acknowledgement of the seriousness of the city's problem is in itself an important step toward solving it.