One must start by recognizing the true root causes of crime are primarily poverty and lack of opportunity. When any piece of legislation crosses my desk that will help address poverty or the lack of opportunity be it in; attaining education, training, housing or employment I will look at it with a lens that understands that helping people out of poverty will help improve public safety.
Narcan for All Police Officers
I have already called for every police department to be fully equipped and trained in the use of Narcan which can reverse the deadly effects of an opiate overdose. Opiates and heroin is running wild throughout the region and the Commonwealth. It does not matter how rich or poor you are, if your black or white, young or old, in the City or the suburbs. It tears families and friends apart and simply destroys lives. If a person can be saved from dying they have an opportunity to turn their life around. Hitting the proverbial bottom can be for some people having a police officer save your life.
Fully Funded Witness Protection for Street Crimes
The Commonwealth has a Witness Protection program that should be beefed up for District Attorneys to tap into whenever they need it. Many times witnesses are simply scared for their life. This program should extend to “street crimes” and not just be used for organized crimes. If providing the proper protection makes the difference between getting a criminal off our streets and behind bars where they belong we need to be able to provide it. People must feel comfortable that their lives will not be in jeopardy if the cooperate as witnesses to a crime. Parents must fell comfortable in letting their children testify or cooperate. Also when others see that witnesses can and will be properly protected they may be more apt to cooperate as well. This also will help build trust between law enforcement and the community. As a State Senator I will make sure that this program is fully funded and that the new DA knows that they can use it whenever they deem fit.
Youth Summer Jobs
We need more money for summer jobs for our youth. There should be no waiting list or lottery for young people to gain employment for the summer. Nothing will replace learning about hard work and gaining the life skills of having a real job. In addition, idle hands are the devil’s play thing. It is only natural for bored youth with nothing to do to get in to trouble. Let’s start teaching our youth the value of hard work. I will fight for Western Mass to have it’s fair share from the Commonwealth to hire our youth.
More Funding for High Risk Young Adults (18-35)
When you look at which people are most likely to be the victim or a perpetrator of a crime it is a young adult who is 18-35 years old. These people are stuck in the middle. No longer a ward of the Commonwealth and under some direction to be educated they are out there left to their own devices to survive. Parents no longer have legal guardianship and in many cases are in no shape to properly provide guidance either because of addiction issues or poor life skills overall. We need more funding for programs like AWAKE and ROCA to work with this population. In addition we need leadership to help guide collaboration between any organizations working with these young adults be they non-profits, public sector or private sector. I would assist in that leadership.
Gateway Cities Public Safety Fund
The Commonwealth under the leadership of Governor Patrick and the Legislature has done a wonderful job in recognizing that cities outside of Boston need some extra help to jumpstart economic development and job creation. I fully support the efforts being made . With that said; cities like Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, Holyoke and in the district I am running in, Chicopee and Springfield also have some real public safety concerns that need to be addressed as well. Having a safer Gateway City would only help to spur development and make the decision of a potential business to move and grow there easier. That is why I propose adding a fund to work hand in hand with the Gateway Cities plan for those Cities to apply for monies for public safety reasons. Whether it is extra patrols in a certain part of town that is ripe for development or money for community non-profits to work with at-risk populations in certain neighborhoods where we are already investing in new housing stock for example. We do not want to throw good money after bad. You can build the Taj Mahal but if the area around it is not safe then it will struggle to succeed. Specifically in Springfield, they could use the money for more officers in targeted areas like the South End where a potential MGM Springfield will be. Having a unit work hand and hand with the casino and the State Police stationed at the casino per legislation to mitigate crime that may come along with the project like drugs, prostitution or robbery only makes sense but will cost money.
50 More Police Officers Including More Officers on Gun Task Force
I called for 50 more police officers in the City of Springfield. Many people ask how I would pay for the 50 new officers. I will fight tooth and nail for every dollar I can in any pot of money down in Boston whether it’s local aid or earmarks in the budget. With that said, I will use my bully pulpit as a State Senator to work with the Cities and Towns in my district to prioritize their budget. Public safety and a fully staffed police department should be a top priority. Fully staffing your police department should be done without paying additional taxes. If after you fully staff your PD and their is a need for more dollars for less important items then tough decisions need to be made. I do not support raising any taxes a the local level at this moment. For example, raising an already unnecessary trash tax to pay for a library is not something I would have supported. And if I did it would be to hire more officers.
Work with Neighboring States on “Drugs for Guns” Issue
Governor of Vermont Peter Shumlin used his entire State of the State speech earlier this year to address in what he called “a full-blown heroin crisis” gripping his state. There is evidence that I-91 serves as a pipeline of drugs and guns from NYC all the way to Vermont and New Hampshire. Springfield is obviously a stop on the way. Because of more lax gun laws in VT and NH guns are more easy to obtain and because of the access to NYC and 91 drugs are more easy to obtain in Springfield. So what happens is that guns are traded for drugs. We must work with our neighboring Legislatures to discuss laws that effect each other and how best to collaborate to stem the proliferation of drugs into their states and the proliferation of illegal firearms into ours. I would lead that effort in the State Senate.
Fully Enforce the Mandatory Minimum on Possession of an Illegal Firearm
Work hand and hand with the new District Attorney to ensure that any person caught in possession of an illegal firearm is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All too often the charge of possession of an illegal firearm is dropped in a plea deal. This should only happen in rare circumstances. Criminals need to know that if they are caught with an illegal gun that they are going to go to prison.
In conclusion, as your next State Senator I will be an active partner with local police departments, civic groups, the business community and city leaders working to make our region safer. Public Safety, education, and economic development are three key issues facing every city and town in this district. These issues are all connected by one another and I have witnessed how they impact one another first-hand as a special police officer, business owner, and school committee member. When drugs and crime are prevalent in a community then public education suffers and when those two factors are in distress economic development lags behind.
There is not a single approach that will solve all of our public safety concerns. My ideas and proposals are rooted in my first-hand experience as a police officer, which make me intimately aware of the public safety challenges we face. A comprehensive approach which addresses both prevention and enforcement and provides additional tools and resources to our public safety officials on the ground, will begin to stem the tide of senseless violence in our region.