PITTSFIELD — Are you safer than you were four years ago? It's a question that has resonated with many individuals and families as I've gone door-to-door. I am particularly struck by seniors that I speak to. They talk openly about their fear of walking in broad daylight through their neighborhoods. It's the same thing I hear from moms and dads worried about their kids walking to school or a young professional who questions why they moved to Pittsfield when they read the headlines in the local paper.
Crime is the biggest issue in this mayoral race and it should be. In 2016, Pittsfield was ranked the ninth-most dangerous city in Massachusetts — which in itself is unacceptable — but today we are now ranked the fifth-most dangerous city in the state according to FBI statistics. So many of us gathered four years ago to learn what our mayoral candidates would pledge in reducing crime, and then-candidate Tyer made claims that felt right and felt believable because it was said with such conviction and such authority. By attacking the then-mayor on his "ineffective" stance on crime, candidate Tyer certainly seemed credible in her claims — she would take care of us. And yet she didn't have a plan; she was personal friends with Pittsfield's chief of police, so what action would she really take? She also grew to have another close personal relationship with the current district attorney, whom she endorsed, which is now proving problematic for the city.
Mayor Tyer has had four years to make a difference and although crime has only risen in Pittsfield, she somehow rather incredibly boasts of her crime-fighting record. She claims to have hired a record number of officers and opened the West Side Community Center. While Tyer did hire officers (many of those slots created by the prior administration), the Pittsfield Police Department has only had a net gain of six officers over four years due to retirements, resignations and promotions. Tyer's two greatest crime-fighting achievements have not had any impact and she is often simply silent about an issue so debilitating to our city. Even more alarming, the mayor is currently pledging she will NOW be tough on crime. Really? Where has she been for the past four years?
True hot-spot policing
Enough about what has been promised and not delivered. As your mayor, on the day I enter office I will sit down with Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn to do what I cannot as a city councilor: work directly with the chief to establish true hot-spot policing. That means using our existing resources to make certain that neighborhoods experiencing spikes in crime see their streets heavily protected by our talented police force. Using patrol-allocation plans with the officers that we have will enable us to tackle this spike in crime. And until we are able to hire more police officers, we need to use the most effective policing methods possible.
For me this is one more failing of this administration. We desperately need to expedite the hiring of more police and yet that, too, has been stymied. I will work from day one to streamline hiring so Pittsfield can finally have the number of police officers we need on the streets. In addition, I pledge to reach out to all community resources to join the city's efforts to combat crime during this time of crisis. In a Mazzeo administration, I will schedule regular and consistent monthly meetings with ALL local enforcement to audit what efforts are effective and what additional resources are needed going forward.
Lastly, I believe that it is critically important to speak to the work that must be done day-in and day-out. Many of us have questioned where our mayor has been for most of the four years she has been in office and crime represents the perfect example of an issue that was put to the side. How can that happen? How can the safety of our residents, young and old, just be put to the side like a book you're no longer interested in reading? I cannot — I will not — hear one more story of a resident who feels as though they are in harm's way, like the veteran who went to war defending this country, but who hesitates to go out his door in fear of safety.
Are we really going to tolerate this for another four years? The office of the mayor is one that requires an individual who is unquestionably devoted to our residents by working every day with one goal in mind: to make our city safe so all of our businesses, all of our schools and all of our kids and families can thrive.
I respectfully ask for your vote on Nov. 5.
This column on crime is the second of three columns by mayoral candidate Melissa Mazzeo on issues facing Pittsfield.