A titanic shift on city's West Side
To the editor:
In light of recent events in Pittsfield's West Side neighborhood, I want to share my experiences in the neighborhood and with those working to make things better.
If we rewind to October of 2018 when a stabbing launched the community into yet another meeting, residents quickly stood up to take action. In a Westside Neighborhood Initiative meeting where more than 100 residents attended, police, elected officials, the district attorney's office, and residents all sat at separate tables, seemingly on opposite sides of an issue but all still wanting the same goal: safety.
This meeting launched a collaborative effort between Pittsfield residents, the Pittsfield Police Department, and the host, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, to build a volunteer and police collaborative effort now known as Westside Community Outreach Post (COP). Over many months, these partners worked out details together, staffed and supported the post, and offered a space for our community to learn more about policing efforts, teach each other important information about safety, and be an ear to listen about what is going on in the neighborhood.
How do I know this? My office is across the hall where these meetings take place. The volunteers are dedicated and caring and deserve our community's support. I attended one of their workshops on layperson CPR and a month later found myself in a situation to use it, saving a life on the corner of West Union and Onota streets. Westside COP saved a life!
I'm proud to see a titanic shift from last year. The day after the incident, with very short notice, Mayor Tyer, District Attorney Harrington, Officer Derby and West Side COP volunteers met, all sitting around the same table, sharing information and concerns and planning a community response together. Is it perfect? No. Building trust when there is history of mistrust takes time. And community work is messy when we all speak different languages and have different experiences. The Tuesday meeting covered by Amanda Drane on Aug. 28 was previously planned and served as a follow-up to connect a larger group of volunteers with information.
As someone who works every day and many weekends in the West Side neighborhood and across the street from the recent Sunday morning's horrible event, I see the relationships building, the way residents look out and care for each other, and how hard they are working to build up their neighborhood. They cannot do it alone. We all, regardless of where we live in Pittsfield, need to support these efforts, and not tear them down because they are not perfect or have not completely succeeded yet. I urge you to spend time in the West Side neighborhood, support its businesses, and frolic in its beautiful parks. A lively, thriving neighborhood is our shared goal and our whole city deserves it.
The writer is the initiative director of Berkshire Bridges Working Cities.
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