Our Opinion: Worried West Side needed timely information
The apparent homicide on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield early Sunday morning is a tragedy for the family of the victim and a nightmare for the residents of the neighborhood. In the absence of information, the fears of residents will be amplified, and unfortunately that information did not emerge as quickly as it should have.
The office of District Attorney Andrea Harrington was slow to release the name of the victim to "provide the family privacy," according to a spokesman. Certainly, time is needed to notify next of kin but there is no specific family right to privacy, certainly not an open-ended one. The DA has established a precedent that other families may expect it to follow in the future. On Wednesday, the DA's office revealed that the victim was Stephanie Olivieri, 32, of Yonkers, N.Y., and formerly of Becket.
The DA's office also described the shooting as an isolated incident, which angered many neighborhood residents who took to social media to express that anger. This was the fifth shooting in that area in a month's time and the second involving injuries. Another shooting on Columbus Avenue left a teenager injured last November. The statement by the DA's office Wednesday that the victim is not believed to be the intended victim painfully recalls the shooting death in that vicinity of Asiyanna Jones in 2017. These incidents may be unrelated but they are part of a pattern of gun violence in a neighborhood where residents fear for their safety and the safety of friends and family members.
Mayor Tyer's statement that residents need not fear for their safety in the wake of this "tragic event" didn't address the concerns of residents who needed specific acknowledgment of the gun violence plaguing their streets and assurance that City Hall was aware of the big picture beyond one "event." Violence on the eve of an election poses problems for an incumbent, as was seen four years ago when Ms. Tyer challenged a mayor who faced the same issue in largely the same neighborhood. Vague reassurances won't calm residents waiting on edge for the sound of gun shots.
That anger was in evidence at a meeting of community members on Tuesday ("DA investigating Columbus Avenue shooting as a homicide," Eagle, August 28.) Volunteers with the West Side Community Outreach Post, which was formed earlier this year as a partnership between the city and the neighborhood, discussed formation of a larger group that would reach out to residents to find solutions to crime. This movement indicates a lack of confidence in the city and in the Police Department, which was not represented at Tuesday's meeting. The concerns of volunteers that the police department has not embraced their efforts and is waiting for the Outreach Post to fail are troubling and suggest that police must do more to win their confidence.
The DA's office, City Hall, and the Police Department cannot expect a worried neighborhood to accept on faith that violent incidents are isolated, that there is no reason to fear, and that all is under control. There are no simple solutions or easy answers to deep-rooted crime problems that are complex in scope, and residents shouldn't expect them. They should, however, expect timely information and frankness from the appropriate officials. Neither were forthcoming in the immediate aftermath of the latest outbreak of deadly gun violence in the West Side.
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