OPINION | Barry Richard: Public Safety Summit Could Be A Good Idea
The city's neighborhoods seem to have quieted down just a bit since a man was shot while minding his business in his apartment during what is believed to have been a gang related shootout in the streets around North Front Street in June.
The shooting was the latest in a growing number of violent crimes being reported as the Summer began to heat up. It prompted the Mitchell Administration to take immediate action to ease growing concerns amongst anxious city residents. Mitchell ordered more frequent patrols and stationed police cruisers in troubled neighborhoods. Mitchell lead high profile walking tours of those neighborhoods accompanied by police officials in an effort to settle rattled nerves...and as a show of force.
The shooting triggered a reaction at City Hall too where At-Large City Councilor Brian Gomes called on the Administration to "bring the hammer down" on violent offenders. Gomes accused the Administration of downplaying the extent of the city's crime problem for political purposes and proposed a "public safety summit" be held o address crime issues head on.
The Council is scheduled to hear Gomes' motion on Thursday night. It reads as follows:
17. WRITTEN MOTION, Councillor Gomes, requesting, that the Committee on Appointments and Briefings call an immediate Public Safety Summit to include a Representative of the Mayor’s Office, Police Chief Cordeiro, Massachusetts Homeland Security Director, Bristol County Sheriff Hodgson, the Commanding Officer from the State Police Barracks in Dartmouth and a Representative of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to discuss measures, procedures and strategies to be utilized and implemented, such as stop and search, crime-free zones, and zero tolerance for crimes in our parks and playgrounds and that SRT Tactical Unit be on call and utilized anytime its needed, also that extra patrols and undercover units be placed in high crime neighborhood; and further, that a Public Awareness Campaign be put together to reach out to the neighborhoods and the citizens of this City for their assistance in fighting crime; furthermore, that this summit be held in executive session, due to the information that may be provided and also strategies that may already be in place that not only protect our Police Officers, Agencies but also the public.
It is clear that current and past administrations have brought state and federal law enforcement to the city to assist in battling violent gangs and gun issues. The results are debatable. The Mitchell Administration can point to FBI statistics to make the case that crime is down in New Bedford but residents who live on the front lines would disagree. It is also clear that while most city neighborhoods are safe too many are not and much more needs to be done.
Gomes' motion calls for bringing all sides in the battle on crime to the table for a face to face on strategies to show the public that it's concerns are being taken seriously. We don't need another dog and pony show where a bunch of promises are made that are never fulfilled. The summit should produce a list of objectives for reducing crime and a general outline for how those objectives will be met.
If taken seriously by those involved I think the idea of a Public Safety Summit could be a good one.
Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.