PITTSFIELD — Melissa Mazzeo wants to reduce the number of cops on our streets. I believe a larger police presence in our neighborhoods is vital for keeping us safe. When I took office in January 2016, there were 75 police officers patrolling our streets. Today, there are 85. In my next term I will hire 10 more. Crime and its impact on our safety is my number one priority. Our families, schools, seniors, young professionals and business leaders deserve action and I am confronting it head on.

First and foremost, I stand firmly alongside the outstanding, highly trained men and women of the Pittsfield Police Department. I am in awe of the courage, professionalism and compassion our police officers demonstrate every single day. I firmly believe that the mayor's job is to provide police officers with the personnel, training, technology and equipment that supports their prevention, response and investigation of crime.

Combating crime demands a bold, multifaceted approach. In addition to hiring more police officers, we brought ShotSpotter technology to our city. With ShotSpotter deployed in high-crime areas, police have made arrests, seized guns and collected almost 300 pieces of evidence that can be used to prosecute crimes. The Massachusetts State Police created the Community Action Team, dramatically increasing the amount of patrol time State Police can provide to Pittsfield. Successful joint law enforcement operations between the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, the Berkshire County Drug Task Force and the Pittsfield Police Department give us a substantial advantage in combating criminal activity. Last year, when residents spoke out and demanded more police presence in the West Side, I listened. With our partners at Habitat for Humanity and Working Cities, we opened a West Side Community Outreach Post. Brave neighborhood leaders, trained by the Pittsfield Police Department, are working together to build a bridge between residents and police.

A voice for citizens

To strengthen these powerful relationships and to expand the fight against drug trafficking and gun violence, the Pittsfield Police Department is taking the lead in applying for a federal Department of Justice designation that would bring federal law enforcement personnel, funding, and resources to the Berkshires. Pittsfield was joined by other Berkshire County police departments to write a comprehensive, compelling application. In May, we submitted a School Violence Prevention grant application to the federal Department of Justice. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren all provided strong letters of support.

In addition to these aggressive measures, we created a citizens review and advisory board to ensure our citizens have a voice in guiding the police chief on policies and regulations. The board has the power to review internal affairs investigations and provide valuable feedback. Police responses to domestic violence or mental health calls are enhanced by a Brien Center clinician who provides care to citizens in their time of crisis and a Pittsfield police sergeant serves as a liaison to the Elizabeth Freeman Center. Implicit bias training and adding fluency in three spoken languages as well as American Sign Language improves a police officer's ability to communicate with and expertly address issues that arise in our diverse communities.

Creating jobs and lifting up neighborhoods are an essential aspect of keeping our community safe. Working closely with business leaders, we have created more than 400 new jobs in the past four years. Demolishing vacant properties, investing in home improvements, encouraging the emergence of neighborhood leaders, sprucing up outdoor spaces, bridging the elements of poverty and medically treating substance-use disorders all contribute to a comprehensive plan to keep neighborhoods safe. I am grateful that our private partners share our vision for building a stronger, safer city.

This work has made a meaningful impact, but there is still much more to be done. I simply cannot imagine doing any less than this. Melissa Mazzeo's only plan involves a risky proposal of deploying fewer cops. Fighting crime is not just a convenient, politically expedient election-year issue. It takes tenacity day in and day out to create a safer community. My record is proof that you can count on me to keep fighting for you.

This column on crime is the second of three columns by Mayor Linda Tyer on issues facing Pittsfield.