Comprehensive response to Pittsfield shootings
To the editor:
The escalation in shootings in Pittsfield is deeply disturbing. There have been 30 shooting incidents in the first five months of 2016; the same number for all of last year. I worked to address youth violence in Pittsfield, and getting ahead of this will take comprehensive action from us all.
First, law enforcement must have the resources necessary to get ahead of this. Mayor Tyer's plan for more officers is critical, as is intelligence-sharing and collaboration among regional law enforcement actors.
At the same time, robust community work must be a parallel track. During my time starting the city's Pittsfield Community Connection (PCC) program, we focused on creating effective alternatives to violence. That means mentors, jobs and counseling. During previous shooting incidents, PCC outreach workers, sometimes former gang members themselves, stepped in to try to reduce chances of retaliation. Action on the ground by those with access remains vital.
One of my last actions with PCC was to work with the Pittsfield Police Department to secure the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative grant. It is a grant that will bring almost $5 million in state funds to Pittsfield over 10 years. The program is just starting and works with police and the sheriff's office to target young men aged 17-24 with a history of violence. Participants get mental and behavioral health counseling, a job subsidized by the grant, education assistance and regular contact by PCC outreach workers.
There appears to be a nasty mix of growing drug markets, gangs and available weapons. As state senator, I would work to ensure that communities in the district have the resources they need to keep our streets safe and to preserve the healthy development of all residents.
Adam Hinds, Pittsfield The writer is a Democratic candidate for state Senate.