Hot weather and crime sometimes seem to go together. But Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri told members of the City Council Tuesday that the crime stats were looking far better this year than last. Still, the city’s new top cop says there’s no easy explanation for the decrease.
Barbieri told the council’s public safety committee that overall crime is down 26 percent as compared to last year. And homicides are down 54 percent. But Barbieri, who only took over the department last month from retiring Commissioner William Fitchett, isn’t gloating.
“It’s been 5 weeks and my plan is going to take time to implement,” he notes.
Barbieri says he’s already begun to put that plan it into action, such as using more real time crime analysis to determine so-called hot spots, and shifting more officers to patrol those areas.
“To implement parts of my plan that I’ve been able to, I’ve increased supervision on all uniformed divisions to try to improve accountability, and to try and put the officers in the right spot with some police supervision to make sure they are patrolling in the areas we need them to, at the times we need to,” Barbieri says.
Barbieri says the crime decrease could be a sign of an improving economy, or have something to do with the department’s recent crackdown on what he called “prolific offenders.” But he stresses that crime stats can turn in the course of a bad weekend.
Barbieri says one continuing problem is getting witnesses to come forward and cooperate with police about criminal activity in their neighborhood. City councilor Orlando Ramos says offering cash incentives through the city’s text-a-tip service could help make a dent in the no snitch code prevalent in many communities.
“It could be privately funded; it could be funded through the DA’s office. But financially to be able to give anonymously…to give rewards to people in exchange for information. It’s a conversation that we need to continue,” says Ramos.
Fellow councilor Tom Ashe, who chairs the Committee, says he was worried Barbieri’s focus on generally high-crime areas would sacrifice police presence in other parts of the city.
“We know that there are hot spots or neighborhoods that right now are generating the bulk of the attention, and that’s…those are appropriate measures to beef up patrolling. But the other neighborhoods, I think, we have to strike a balance to make sure that they’re getting attention they need too. And the commissioner certainly demonstrated that he understands that that balance needs to be met,” says Ashe.
The Springfield police will have some help to find that balance. As in previous years, Barbieri says State Police will assist in patrolling hot spot areas this summer.