By Sue Moynagh
This past Election Day, I had an informative conversation with a neighbor as we did standout for our respective candidates. We have a lot in common. We are both long time residents of Worcester’s Union Hill neighborhood. We attended the same church, school, shopped in local stores and walked on the same streets. We have both seen the changes in our community, the ups and downs, and we hang in there, hoping to effect changes for the better in the future. She spoke of the high crime rate on her street; drugs, violence and shootings. We both hear the gun shots, especially at night, and we are both glad of the response we are getting from the city, especially the police department. The latest “weapon” in the battle against crime could be ShotSpotter. What is ShotSpotter? What are the pros and cons? And why do I favor its use in this community?
First, I want to give an update on this war against crime. This past July, a community engagement meeting was held at Worcester Academy announcing that a special Community Policing Precinct was being formed for the Union Hill neighborhood. This is in response to the increase in violent crimes in this area, especially those involving guns. The Precinct involves the Police Operations Division, which works in conjunction with the Vice Squad and Detective Division to focus on problem situations within the community. In the first week, there were 7 coordinated drug busts and a large number of persons with outstanding warrants were apprehended. Large numbers of illegal abandoned or unregistered vehicles were also towed. The police officers are now walking throughout the streets of Union Hill, and you can see patrol cars everywhere. There is also a greater state police presence now that they have opened a division at 81 Lafayette Street along with the Attorney General’s office. What does this mean for the neighborhood safety?
In the past week, I have seen numerous state and Worcester police cruisers on Harrison, Dorchester, Madison, and Providence Streets. Cars are being stopped. When people see such an expanded police presence, there is a perception that it is safer. As one local businessman said, “People feel more secure. They are out walking, with kids, with baby strollers. There are more kids playing in the parks.” Unfortunately, there are still problems, including gunfire. More is needed to increase public safety in Union Hill and adjacent neighborhoods. This brings me to the ShotSpotter initiative.
I first heard about ShotSpotter at a CSX Neighborhood Advisory Committee that meets once a month to discuss funding proposals for three Worcester districts most impacted by the opening of the CSX railroad freight yard on Shrewsbury and Grafton Streets. The first meeting I attended was held at North High School in March. I testified that Union Hill was impacted by the CSX freight yard, and should receive mitigation money. A number of projects were proposed including the installation of 12 surveillance cameras along Providence Street and the surrounding streets. This would cost approximately $35,000 for stationary surveillance cameras. As far as I am concerned, anything that would give police added information to apprehend criminals is worth it. At the September CSX meeting, members of the Worcester Police Department gave a presentation of the ShotSpotter technology. A follow- up presentation was made in October. Click to continue »