Police beef up Third Thursday staffing
PITTSFIELD -- Amid preparations for the first Third Thursday event since last month's melee involving local teens, city officials say they expect a "good" event, but they reiterated there will an increased police presence at the festivities this week.
Pittsfield Police Capt. John Mullin said law enforcement will take into account what happened last month when deciding how many officers to assign to the city's premier street festival, held on the third Thursday of every month between May and October. The festival generally lasts from 5 to 8 p.m.
Pittsfield Police Capt. David Granger declined to specify the number of officers who will be at the event, but he said the department has "a contingency plan" if the need arises.
"We're not expecting any problems at this time," Granger said Tuesday.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said he "certainly hoped" that what happened at the season's inaugural event last month was an isolated incident.
On May 17, at the end of Third Thursday, a fight broke out on the corner of Melville and North streets between two girls -- an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old -- and the incident escalated into a "riot situation" involving more than 100 mostly young people, according to police.
To gain control of the situation, the Pittsfield Police Department needed the help of the Massachusetts State Police, the Berkshire County Sheriffs Office, and the Dalton and Lanesborough police departments. After the event, Pittsfield Police said there would be more officers at future Third Thursdays.
No major injuries were reported last month, but six teenagers were arrested after the melee, and four were arraigned the next day.
Some of the teens involved say police overreacted, a claim the Pittsfield Police deny.
On Monday, Bianchi said that, in the wake of that incident, he and Police Chief Michael Wynn -- who will be working at this month's event -- have been meeting with community leaders to try to foster mutual respect between young people and law enforcement and at some point would like to hold a "youth summit."
"The police are there to keep us safe," Bianchi said. "[Young people] have to learn that when a police officer tells them to disperse, they do so."
The mayor said city officials are "anticipating a good event" this week.
Nearly a dozen people on The Eagle's Facebook page have expressed apprehension this week about attending the upcoming Third Thursday be cause of the trouble last month, and, as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, 24 percent of 210 respondents to an informal Eagle poll said they'll skip the event because of those problems.
But Megan Whilden, the city's director of cultural development, told The Eagle earlier in the week that her department feels "absolutely fine moving forward."
"We want everyone to have a great time and feel safe. It's always been a family-friendly and fun event," she said.
One Pittsfield resident interviewed on North Street by The Eagle on Tuesday said he has no reservations about attending Thursday's festival.
"I don't think what happened last month will affect this event," said Michael Garrity, 17, who attributed the troubles to "immaturity" on the part of the teens involved in the melee.
Whilden said the theme for this month's Third Thursday is "country in the city," with line dancing, bluegrass, country, roots and folk music, a roping demonstration by a cowboy, and pony rides.
"It's going to be especially fun for families," she said.
Meanwhile, three of the four teens arraigned after last month's event have pending cases:
- Christopher Gary Carr, 17, of West Street, is charged with disorderly conduct and is scheduled to be back in court on Thursday.
- Kamaar Taliaferro, 18, of Bartlett Street, is charged with disorderly conduct and assault and battery on a police officer and will return to court July 17.
- Shatei Logan, the 18-year old Hamlin Street woman who police say fought with the 15-year-old, faces charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and is scheduled to be back in Central Berkshire District Court on July 17.
All three have pleaded not guilty and remain free on personal recognizance.
The fourth teen who was arraigned had a disorderly conduct charge converted to a civil infraction and paid a fine.
No information is available about the other two people arrested during the melee because they are juveniles.
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