Letter: Community engagement critical to Westside

Posted

To the editor:

Residents and stakeholders of Pittsfield have long endured street violence in our public and shared spaces. The trauma of these events is therefore not limited to the victims involved but also vibrates through our communities and impacts our shared experience.

Our hearts go out to yet another family that must now consider the future without a loved one. In addition, we have concern for our neighbors, the bystanders, and children who must also consider and reconcile these acts of violation that occur in their shared space.

The members of the Pittsfield Neighborhood Action Team endeavor to put our collective care and concern into action. Planning meetings have taken place over the past month with the intention of expanding the ability of volunteers to engage their community and develop solutions that address the root causes of the violence that has become so commonplace. The PNAT team, currently comprised of volunteers of the Westside Community Outreach Post, have maintained that this effort must be collaborative to be successful. Partnership with the Pittsfield Police Department, mayor's office and district attorney's office has been critical to the formation and ongoing development of this effort to improve the safety of our communities. It will only be together that we may actualize a Pittsfield free of violence.

The Aug. 29 editorial "Worried Westside needed timely information" fell short of mentioning that the mayor and district attorney attended the Aug. 26 meeting on short notice; they were joined by Officer Darren Derby, representing the Pittsfield Police Department. They listened to resident concerns and provided what information they could. It must be clear, that first and foremost our frustration is with the violence and the complicated causes that prevent long-term progress on issues like gun violence. We believe that the Pittsfield Police Department, mayor's office and district attorney's office are providing genuine participation in the ongoing conversation to develop solutions. These groups were joined by Westside Initiative members and concerned residents and were able to hold an emergency meeting to have a preliminary discussion on what a collective response to the recent violence might be; including but not limited to the BBQ on Sept. 20 in Durant Park. The Aug. 27 meeting was separate, a continuation of the PNAT's conversation about opportunities to expand our roles and increase our impact.

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We are all in agreement that there is no simple solution to this problem and our approaches must be able to evolve. The PNAT firmly believes that community engagement is the first step as a solution must be derived from resident experience in order to be successful. All parties involved understand this is a work in progress and are committed to its success. Keeping our elected officials and government agencies accountable will always be an important part of this process and we appreciate The Berkshire Eagle's continued reporting on these important developments. We look forward to expanding the PNAT and encourage residents to get involved in the many opportunities to create a just, thriving and safe Pittsfield.

Christine Hamilton,

Karen Roche,

Pittsfield

The writers are members of the Pittsfield Neighborhood Action Team.


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