Police staffing an issue in Fitchburg's battle on crime
Posted in the Leominster Forum
#1 Aug 15, 2013
FITCHBURG -- Hire more police officers to deal with a rise in violent crime, or root out its causes so it doesn't happen in the first place?
This is a question councilors will be grappling with for some time to come.
Police Chief Robert DeMoura gave a special presentation to councilors Wednesday night on efforts police have been making to reduce crime in the city, which he said is down nearly 19 percent, but violent crime is up almost 5 percent.
He pointed to mental-health training for officers, teaming up with state and university police, using data to more effectively deploy officers, and using social media to connect with residents and receive tips as some of the things that have led to better policing, despite having fewer officers. DeMoura also touted the department's work with the city's youth, through the youth police academy, school-resource officers and having high-school student interns -- some who go on to work for the department or elsewhere in public safety.
DeMoura said a rise in some numbers, such as instances of domestic violence, can be at least partially explained by more attention being given to such matters. Because of the addition of a domestic-violence advocate and the outreach that has been done as a result, he said, more people who are suffering from domestic violence now feel that the Police Department is doing something about it, so more are coming forward to report it. At one point, DeMoura said, domestic violence wasn't even an arrestable offense.
Following the presentation, councilors had a lengthy discussion on police staffing levels and their effects on crime in the city.
Councilor Joel Kaddy, recalling some of the things said previously by Detective Keith Bourne regarding the Police Department being overworked and understaffed, said it brought back "bad memories." With wavering voice, Kaddy recounted his years as an officer in Cleghorn on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift, and how he had to go to "call to call to call."
"Armed robberies, kidnappings, shootings, stabbings, rapes, drugs, gangs, guns, and just when you don't think you can take anymore, you get another call," he said.
Kaddy expressed concern for the officers of today who are dealing with similar situations, and are getting worn out.
"If the staffing at the Police Department is that low right now, it's like pulling a string," Kaddy said. "It's going to snap.
"If it's down to staffing, find the money," he added.
Councilor Marcus DiNatale said it's no secret the Police Department needs more officers. He said there is money available to fund them, but they have to be a top priority. He suggested funding that has been used for things like the city pool could have funded officers instead.
"We have a perception problem in this city that won't go away," DiNatale said, noting that it comes from populations in and outside of the city.
#2 Aug 15, 2013
DeMoura called public safety "the linchpin of economic development," hinting that perception is hurting the city in other ways.
Mayor Lisa Wong defended how she has funded other departments, saying that legal, housing, fire, health and building departments are necessary "to figure out there are certain signals that we get in neighborhoods that things are deteriorating before we ever get the first police call."
She said her motive behind funding things like the pool and library is rebuilding the social fabric that is lost through things like drug addiction and the breakdown of the family unit, which has resulted in increased domestic violence.
"I would hate to think we would just allow calls to increase and just say we need more people to address more calls," Wong said. "I want to figure out how we get those calls down."
In other business, the council also approved the appointment of four new firefighters and celebrated the swearing-in of three new permanent full-time police officers, as well as the promotion of one firefighter.
The newly appointed firefighters are Hector I. Rodriguez, Michael K. Smith, Andrew M. Bellizzi and John A. Girouard.
Sworn in as permanent full-time officers were Antwain C. Tobin, Shawn R. Walker and Corey Donnelly.
Firefighter Anthony Marrama was promoted to fire lieutenant.
#3 Aug 15, 2013
Hey, maybe just disconnect the phones! Think of how much money THAT would save!
It would also serve to "get those calls down"!!!
#4 Aug 15, 2013
I have done so much fo rFitchburg why cant they
#5 Aug 15, 2013
Thanks for the 'Breaking News'. If you hadn't told me that the city is full of scumbags and has been since as long as I can remember I would never have known. You should be a reporter!
What's you next hot 'Breaking News' story? Maybe something like 'Fitchburg has a lot of homeless people'. Keep up the good work there Scoop!
#6 Aug 16, 2013
FITCHBURG -- A city man who slashed his social worker in the face with a utility knife on Wednesday night was upset because the worker did not buy him Nicorette gum, according to court documents.
Keyon Johnston, 31, of 49 Fox St., apt. 1, is being held without bail after police say he attacked Scott Smith, 36, of New Hampshire, while being given a ride home.
The attack took place just before 5 p.m. about a block away from the Fitchburg Police Department. Clutching his wounded cheek, Smith made his way to the Elm Street station following the attack.
"Mr. Scott was bleeding significantly. There was blood on the floor," said Police Sgt. Glenn Fossa, during a Thursday afternoon press conference held in front of the police station.
Johnston was arrested at his home without incident and charged with mayhem with a dangerous weapon, a felony. He was arraigned in Fitchburg District Court Thursday morning and will be held until a dangerousness hearing scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 22. Johnston will also receive a mental health evaluation.
Johnston is a patient at Community HealthLink, a community mental health center with an office on Main Street in Fitchburg. Smith is employed at the center as a social worker.
The attack was unprovoked, according to court documents.
Smith told police he was driving Johnston home when the man suddenly said, "This is for lying to me."
Smith said he was "blind-sided" as Johnston then cut the right side of his face with a utility knife, according to court documents. Johnson then got out of his car and walked home.
Smith's facial wound was deep and six-inches long. He received 22 stitches at HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster and was released. Doctors told Smith he suffered no nerve damage but that he will experience significant scarring.
"This was a severe injury," said Fossa. "We are considering this a very serious case."
Fossa said Smith did not want to publicly comment on the attack. He declined to say what town he lives in.
After his arrest, Johnston told police he is "bipolar schizoeffective" and that he needed medical attention.
Once at the hospital, police heard Johnston tell an emergency room nurse that he was angry with Smith because he had not "done what he said he would for the last weeks," which included bringing him Nicorette gum, according to court documents.
Deborah Ekstrom, president and CEO of Community HealthLink, declined to comment on the incident citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
#7 Aug 16, 2013
Instead of salary increases the city council should have been contracting for more police. They have been more concerned with taking care of the present and retiring employees over the last ten years.
Public safety should always take priority over everything else. The Mayors pay raise proposal could be used to hire one more officer.
#8 Aug 16, 2013
That will teach that high payed big shot social worker to bring him his F'ing Free Nicorette gum next time he brings him to his free psycologist appointment!
#9 Aug 16, 2013
I am really, Really, REALLY struggling with Kaddy's comment about our officers "getting worn out". Lets not forget that each and every officer on the force averages 56 paid days off per year. Needless to say, it is hard to imagine that they are getting worn out, or anything close to it.
They ought to try working at a job where you get a feeble week or two paid days off per year; like millions of others in our land get from their employers. If these people were suddenly each given 56 paid days off per year they would all think that they had died and had had gone to heaven.
Besides all that; if I had a dollar for every time I saw a FPD cruiser simply parked in a parking lot for 45 minutes to an hour or more; without the officer doing much more then dozing off, texting his loved ones and adjusting his hair in the rearview mirror; I would be a very rich individual indeed. Ditto for the times that I have witnessed a FPD cruiser parked at a body shop or at an auto repair shop. To claim that these officers are nearing their breaking point as a result of being overworked is complete nonsense.
Again, I have zero compassion for an organization that gives each of it's members an average of 56 paid days off per year, while at the same time whining that they are understaffed and over worked. It defies simple logic.
By the way; is Kaddy still out on that police disability of his? If so; just what in hell is the nature of his disability? As I have said in the past, Kaddy looks healthy enough to me to be hitched to a plow and to bust sod for 8 hours a day; 60 to 80 hours a week.
#10 Aug 16, 2013
I Really, REALLY struggle to show any empathy towards people like you who have 365 paid vacation days a year and then complain about how much us working people earn. If you are not happy with all of the free stuff you get then get a job.
Since: Feb 10
#11 Aug 16, 2013
Darn, I just saw this little story out here in cyberspace and thought you'd get a really good chuckle out of it. Here goes.....
A DEA Agent stopped at a ranch in Texas and talked to an old rancher. He told the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs." The rancher said, "okay, but don't go into that field over there...", as he pointed out the location. The DEA Agent verbally exploded and said, "look mister, I have the authority of the federal government with me!" Reaching into his rear back pocket, the arrogant officer removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher. "See this badge?! This badge means I can go wherever I want... On any land! No questions asked, no answers given! Do you understand old man?!"
The rancher kindly nodded, apologized, and went about his chores. Moments later the rancher heard loud screams, he looked up and saw the DEA agent running for his life, being chased by the ranchers big Santa Gertrudis Bull...... With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it was likely that he'd sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified. The old rancher threw down his tools, ran as fast as he could to the fence, and yelled at the top of his lungs......
"YOUR BADGE! SHOW HIM YOUR BADGE!"
#12 Aug 18, 2013
Yawn... Sorry Stamos, there's not an emoticon for that. Sorry.
Stamos, ask Darn if he'd like to go have lunch with us! It would be a lot of fun. We could stay close to home...
#13 Aug 19, 2013
The fact of the matter is Fitchburg isn't safe....
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