Tag Archives: Worcester Police Department

Merry Christmas! Now gimme that gun!

My neighbor’s seen a kid with a gun; I’ve seen a kid with a gun (please see my column below: THE WAIT. THE WEIGHT.); a friend of mine, driving a little too aggressively through Kelley Square, had a gun pointed at him by the fellow motorist he had cut off seconds before …

Suffice it to say: SOMETIMES IT FEELS LIKE WORCESTER IS AWASH IN GUNS!

Thank goodness for:

Gun buy-backs!

This Saturday in Worcester and surrounding towns!

The Worcester Police Department and UMass hospital hold their 13th annual Goods for Guns gun buy-back event.

9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

At the Worcester Police Department, 9 – 11 Lincoln Square

Give the nice policeman any operable firearm and he’ll give you a holiday gift card to local stores and supermarkets! That way you won’t have to rob them to acquire their merchandise and food items! Don’t worry about the police! It’s all done anonymously. No questions asked!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

So many guns in America, so little time! That’s why the program has been expanded! Now collecting guns in the pretty towns of Grafton, Leicester, Millbury, Northboro, Shrewsbury and Westboro!

Leicester will hold its gun buy-back 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday at 90 South Main St., Leicester.

Millbury will hold its gun buy-back from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday at 127 Elm St., Millbury.

You know what to do! DO THE RIGHT THING!

– R. Tirella

Public Review of the Worcester Police

By Gordon T. Davis

The rebellions in Ferguson, MO, regarding the killing of Michael Brown by the police have been the cause of some talk about a civilian review board for the police in Worcester.

A civilian review board is good public policy, as all public agencies need an effective periodic review of their work.  Police misconduct is an indication of the effectiveness of Worcester policing and law enforcement. There is today no real review of the Worcester Police Department’s work, whether that work is useful, ineffectual, or bad failure. There are no meaningful statistics collected or kept, and what information is kept is not available to the public.  Who can say if there is racial profiling or other type of bad policing happening?

The City Manager in theory reviews the work of the police department, but as we know from the past such reviews by the Manager are just rubber stamping of what the police Chief provides to the Manager. The Manager is supposed to be the “civilian review” of the police. He objectively is not.

We in the public are not able to have an objective opinion of the work or failings of the Worcester Police, as we just don’t have enough information or transparency.

I went to a Worcester Human Rights Commission meeting recently, and the good people there were reviewing a quarterly report of complaints brought against the Worcester Police. The report was cryptic, part of it being in code. The code was for the type of complaint. The Commissioners had a hard time with the report. Even if they could have figured it out, the Worcester Human Rights Commission could not release their findings without the permission of the Manager.

To be effective, a review of the police should be independent and free of conflicts of interests. The City Manager is certainly conflicted about anything negative about his administration.

Before going further I need to make full disclosures: I have been arrested four times, I have worked on the Justice for Cristino Hernandez Committee, I have relatives who are police officers, and I know that many cops are good people. I have an open mind on the issues.

In Worcester, public review of the police will take a form that might be different from anything else. Certainly it would be different than the Civilian Review Board found in Cambridge, MA. Worcester once had that type of review board which was a part of the Worcester Human Rights Commission. It had the power to investigate complaints against the City of Worcester. In the 1980s the Police Department rammed through a charter change that prevented the Worcester Human Rights Commission from investigating any complaints against the City. The commission cannot issue ANY report of any type without the approval of the City Manager.

The review of the police in Worcester will likely take the form of a nongovernmental agency that takes complaints against the police, helps complainants with their cases, and issues reports. To some extent these needs were performed by the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, when Ron Madnick was executive director. It still does work in this area, recently winning a case against the City in Federal Court. Chris Robarge and the attorney Beverly Chorbajian were significant protagonists for the plaintiffs, but that is a story for another day.

Hopefully, the talk of a public review of the police precipitated by the rebellions in Ferguson will result in the good public policy of civilian review of the police in Worcester, a rational outcome of the repeating story of Ferguson, MO.

Worcester Police Dept. needs ShotSpotter – another crime-fighting tool for our urban tool-box!

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.

ShotSpotter is a high- tech auditory system in which sensors pick up gunshots and relay this information to the police, allowing them to assess the situation and respond immediately. Sensors are activated by loud noises, but backfiring cars and fireworks are identified and filtered out. Data includes number of shots, location and, if shooters are in a vehicle, travel direction. Numbers of police needed and action required can be decided depending on information relayed to the police. Data provided by ShotSpotter would allow police to formulate long- term strategies to deal with criminal activity. Areas that are most problematic would get the most attention in terms of personnel. In some cases, ShotSpotter data can be used in courts as evidence. On at least one occasion, police were accused of instigating a shooting incident. Evidence showed that the police did not fire first. If police can get to the scene of a shooting in a much quicker time, there is better chance of making arrests and collecting more evidence.

I did some research about the system and was impressed by what it could do. In a report by Erica Goode in a New York Times News Bulletin, trials were conducted at the Charleston Navy Yard in 2006. ShotSpotter had a 99.6% “correct” rate of identifying and locating 234 gunshots at 23 locations within the test area. Other cities that use the technology claim an 80% plus success rate. ShotSpotter is rated favorably in many locations, including Washington DC, Springfield, MA, Oakland, Boston, Milwaukee and Gary, Indiana. Some of these cities claim that ShotSpotter use has reduced crime, especially gunfire by as much as 60- 80%. Overall crime rates have been reduced by a similar percentage, in a relatively short period of time.

Is ShotSpotter perfect? Of course not; there are cons. As with any new technology, there are imperfections. Sometimes police respond and there is no evidence of gunfire. In some cities, the police don’t utilize the information received correctly. Training is required for police personnel. It is also necessary to adjust SpotShotter according to each city’s unique auditory or acoustic “fingerprint.” An area with hills and large numbers of wooden buildings would reflect sound waves differently than one with flat terrain and with a large number of skyscrapers. Positions are determined by triangulating input from more than one sensor.

Some people fear the “big brother” aspect of this technology. Would private conversations be overheard? How much of this evidence should be allowed in courts before someone’s civil rights are jeopardized? Sensors are supposed to be placed at high levels and are activated by loud noises, not conversation. Surveillance cameras are not required, but recommended to be used with ShotSpotter. People feel uncomfortable with cameras in their neighborhood. I do. I also feel like I am willing to put up with this uneasiness if it means criminals can be identified and removed from my neighborhood, increasing overall safety. I also see these measures as temporary.

Another concern comes from those who have invested financially in the neighborhoods. If you own property or businesses in the community you want people to come in- to live, shop, dine and work here. There is fear that no one will want to come into a neighborhood that needs cameras and sensors. I would argue that the crime itself would dissuade people from moving into a neighborhood. If people feel safe, they will come and live, shop and work. Bad reputations are made by the crimes themselves, not responding technology.

Another fear is that ShotSpotter and cameras will drive crime into adjacent neighborhoods. Guess what? It is already there! There are no physical barriers separating the neighborhoods. People who commit crimes may live in one section of the city and be apprehended for crimes committed in another section of the city or even in another town. Many of the trouble-makers in Union Hill came from other parts of the city. In time, if not arrested, they will move elsewhere. Let’s work together to deal with problems, not close our eyes and point fingers.

One argument states that statistics do not bear out the need for high- tech tools. Few gunshots are reported, and other cities are even worse than Worcester in terms of violent crime. True. One reason brought out at the ShotSpotter presentation for low gunshot reports is that few people call the police when they hear gunshots. I know I don’t. It is very difficult to determine where the sounds are coming from unless the shots are very close by. Some people feel that they may be mistaken. Could it be fireworks? Others are just plain afraid of retaliation. So statistics about gunfire don’t tell the whole story. As for other cities being worse than Worcester in terms of violent crimes, I am sure there are. As far as I’m concerned, one gun fired or one crime committed is one too many.

At a recent meeting, I was accused of being an alarmist, for basing my endorsement of ShotSpotter and surveillance cameras on fear rather than on information. This comment was based on the testimonies given by myself and another resident at the CSX Advisory Committee meeting on October 12. Neither one of us are alarmists. Are we afraid? Certainly. But we are both intelligent, well- educated women that are able to make sound decisions, based on facts, not on hysterical, knee- jerk reaction. There are still guns being fired and other crimes being committed in this section of the city and we want the police to have whatever tools they need to respond quickly and effectively to problems that arise.

In closing, I want to make reference to a book I am reading, “The Quest,” by Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla. It is a book about making improvements in an individual’s spiritual life, but I think it relates just as well with the health of a community. One section deals with the use of denials and affirmations. It states that if you change a baby’s diaper, you don’t put a clean diaper over an old one. You clean up the mess first! That’s what is needed now. We have to allow the police to do their work and get rid of all the CRAP in this neighborhood…in this city before improvements will take hold. I endorse ShotSpotter because it will enable the police to do an even better job of cleaning up my community, safely, efficiently, and effectively.

 

 

 

Worcester Police Department joins CrimeReports.com

Check out this website! 

www.CrimeReports.com

Maybe this can be of some use to the good folks of Union Hill, Piedmont, Green Island, Main South and all our other beloved Worcester neighborhoods. Citizens have free access to neighborhood crime data through the Worcester Police Department website and iPhone app.  – R. Tirella

Folks can now gain access to neighborhood-level crime incident data in near real time. The service also allows people to anonymously provide tips to the department.

Meet your neighbors! Gerard “Jerry” Michaud

By Ron O’Clair
 
 
Gerard “Jerry” Michaud was the caretaker of the Notre Dame Des Canadiens Church located at Salem Square for many years, and has lived in my building (700 Main St. – across the street from the former PIP shelter) for a long time, as he says 8 years. He has been unable to get a good night’s rest for so long, he has taken to wearing ear plugs in his sleep.  
 
Jerry lives in the room overlooking “the action and hearing the commotion, 24/7/365 since the WPD has failed to address repeated pleas to halt the anti-social lawless behavior keeping poor “Jerry” awake, I thought I would interview him first. My questions are often long and probing deeply into the ground zero atmosphere of rampant lawlessness, this author’s battle to take the streets back, and the indifference heretofore experienced by a certain segment of the veteran officers of Chief Gary Gemme’s troops who acted knowingly, or inadvertently to help the crime wave prosper by lax enforcement of the little laws such as littering and jaywalking.  
 The answers are all the opinions of the respondents, in their own words.
 
The interview:
Q:  What brought you to the area of my concern, the 700 block of Main Street?
A:  Upon leaving my last address I had to find a p lace closer to my work.
Q:  Did you have reservations about moving into a rooming house located in one of the highest crime areas of the city of Worcester?
A: At the time I didn’t know much about the area, or its going ons.
Q:  Was I influential in your decision to move into the building?
A: Yes, you were, it seemed to be a good and safe place to live, and also a close place for my A.A. meetings held next door at Unity Hall on the 4th floor of the SMOC building that used to house the P.I.P. shelter.
Q:  So, my clean and sober living requirement appealed to you?
A: Yes, it did.
Q:  You’ve noticed quite a lot of criminal trespass, disturbance of the peace, assaultive behaviors, littering & loitering of our sidewalks in the past haven’t you?
A: Yes, in 8 ? years I’ve been here, crime and drug activities seemed to have risen.
Q:  Do you feel safe walking around the neighborhood – in the daylight? In the nighttime? How safe do you feel outside overall?
A: In the daylight I feel safe, but at night, I’ve been leery and very cautious, as I was once accosted near the Registry of Motor Vehicles on Main Street, at night.
Q: With all the security measures I have in place, and my own ability to handle what happens, as it happens, do you feel safe inside the building?
A: I feel safe in the building, since security measures have been implemented, this includes screening of all incoming tenants, and the “No visitor’s policy”
Q: As your building superintendent, have I done everything possible to provide you with a safe, secure, and comfortable place to reside? And do you feel safe with the “super” being on site 24/7/365?
A: Yes, you have since you involved the police with constant security watch.
Q: What do you think of my “shock and awe” campaign put into effect since the 30th day of July, and the resultant drop in the amount of criminal activity not being allowed by me to continue unabated? By my own efforts to not be intimidated by criminal minded citizens who have come to believe that this area is “their” turf, and they have every right to disturb the peace every night, deal drugs from the corners of Charlton & Wellington Streets, and generally think they are above the law?
A: Your campaign has had an impact on safety around here, especially in drug dealing – however, there is still prostituting going on daily. Your methods; with cooperation with police, has had a great change of scenery at 707 Main Street and the area of Charlton and Wellington streets.

Worcester cop slapped with civil rights lawsuit

BOSTON — A civil rights lawsuit has been filed by a Chicago resident against Worcester Police Officer Jeremy Smith, alleging the use of excessive force during a routine motor vehicle stop.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has announced that Wakeelah Cocroft, of Chicago, Illinois, has filed the case in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The complaint alleges that Ms. Cocroft was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by her sister, Clytheia Mwangi, of Worcester, on December 29, 2007. The two women were pulled over at a gas station on Park Avenue at 7am by Officer Smith. According to Ms. Cocroft, the officer aggressively approached the vehicle they were in and began screaming at Ms. Mwangi for speeding.

While the officer wrote the ticket, Ms. Cocroft, who was a passenger in the car, went into the station to purchase gas and then returned to use the pump. The police officer began yelling at her and ordered her to return to the car. As she went to the car, she told the officer that he had no right to speak to her in that manner and that she knew her rights.

Officer Smith grabbed her from behind, and threw her on the ground, slamming her face against the concrete, according to the complaint.

She alleges that he then kneeled on her back until a second officer arrived in response to a 911 call by Ms. Mwangi.

The complaint alleges that the use of force caused bodily injury to Ms. Cocroft’s face and shoulder.

The civil rights claim alleges that the use of force was excessive and unnecessary and that there was no probable cause to arrest Ms. Cocroft for charges of Disturbing the Peace and Resisting Arrest. In addition, the complaint alleges that Officer Smith arrested Ms. Cocroft in retaliation for speaking up about his conduct.

The trouble with Arizona

By Ronal Madnick, Director
Worcester County Chapter
ACLU of Massachusetts

A law, SB1070, passed in Arizona makes the rampant racial profiling of Latinos that is already going on in Arizona much worse. If this law were implemented, citizens would effectively have to carry ‘their papers’ at all times to avoid arrest. It is a low point in modern America when a state law requires police to demand documents from people on the street.

This unconstitutional law sends a strong message to all immigrants to have no contact with any law enforcement officer. The inevitable result is not only to make immigrants more vulnerable to crime and exploitation, but also to make the entire community less safe, by aggressively discouraging witnesses and victims from reporting crimes. It violates the supremacy clause by interfering with federal immigration power and authority. The law also unlawfully invites racial profiling against Latinos and other people of color. Continue reading The trouble with Arizona

Holy Cross College party alert!!!!!

By Ron Chiras

Would anyone like to see what is still happening on College Hill, home to Holy Cross College?

Last weekend Boyden and Caro streets were blocked at 1 a.m., Sunday morning (April 24). This week-end is the BIG ONE!!?

Read this alert sent out to residents and join the “Hill” people in trying to figure out what the h— is going on!

Holy Cross Spring Weekend: an annual event that occurs on the Holy Cross campus this first weekend of May. There are activities on campus but, of course, Caro Street is the big attraction.

We suspect, as in the past, many hundreds [of students] will be on Boyden and Caro streets – drinking in overcrowded apartments, cellars, porches and yards – most of them underage with open containers of alcohol. Continue reading Holy Cross College party alert!!!!!

The Gong Show! (aka: last night’s Worcester City Council meeting!)

By Rosalie Tirella

Last night I sat before a little TV set mesmerized – absolutely mesmerized! – by all the whackiness that was flying around the august City Council chambers. You should have been their, folks! OR: You should have at least watched last night’s Worcester City Council meeting on your TV set! You could have sliced the rancor and the nuttiness with a meat cleaver! It was “Reno 911″ Worcester style! What a gas, gas, gas!!!!

Here we go: Nutty Scene #1: Sam Rosario. Rosario, a duplicitous blowhard whom everyone in Worcester thinks is a duplicitous blowhard, is representing the liveries in their quest to become taxis. Sammy is a guy who once told political opponent Joe Cassella to step out of a three-way city council primary race because he (Cassella) had no chance of winning – it was really a race between him (Rosario) and the incumbent (dope Joff Smith). That was before Cassella trounced him and then went on to run against Smith in November and do fairly well – and seemingly (thank God!) put an end to Rosario’s political aspirations. Well, last night Sammy went bonkers. Continue reading The Gong Show! (aka: last night’s Worcester City Council meeting!)

College Hill and Holy Cross College: Nothing’s changed and it’s getting worse!

By Ron Chiras

Promises!!? – [Worcester] Housing Court: orders landlords to reduce numbers in apartments out of code. 10 Boyden by Dec. 31st – students still there. 125 College St. – since 2000 has been breaking the law- no permits to add attic apt. – ordered to reduce numbers – extra students still there. The same at 21, 23, 26 Caro St.- 11 and 13 Boyden. We know this will not stop the unruly parties in apartments and in the streets.

—–Worcester Police – keep their promises – will not arrest students. The poor kids (they are running the show). Keep the same non-working policy of the Holy Cross detail “patrolling” the Hill. BUT, they don’t seem to be working with the Holy Cross campus police, off-campus or responding to the neighborhood’s cry for help. They say students are not breaking the law in the streets, so they can’t arrest them. Can you believe it?

—–Holy Cross – no control of off-campus students – giving the college a very bad rep.
Supposed to enforce on-campus code of conduct, off-campus, (WE were encouraged) HOW? Holy Cross said the Campus police!

Beautify the neighborhood by tearing down houses that have been unoccupied for 10 years, then letting students park cars on that land. What gives? We realize landscaping won’t come till spring. But allowing more party parking!?

SO IT GOES – READ ON!

January 18, 2010 – Holy Cross students start returning to school for Spring semester. Four Holy Cross owned houses have been torn down over the Christmas break to help “beautify” the street. Students begin using the land to park their cars.

January 22, 2010 – Party weekend on Caro St. – as usual. Worcester Police Department and Holy Cross campus police were to work together. No way. WPD seen in cruiser, 20 feet away from unruly students who were shouting, drinking outside in freezing temps after midnight. No action taken. NO campus police seen anywhere off-campus.

January 29, 2010 – “Things” get worse. Reported – party at 3 City View St. – Holy Cross-owned. Saturday into Sunday morn. Noise heard at Kendig and Davenport streets. Also, partying in the street between 125 and 138 College St . Neighbor reports staggering drunks, shouting-swearing by dozens of students going between houses. Sound familiar? WPD seen going by the students two times and they did nothing. This was after midnight in freezing temperatures. No campus police seen anywhere off campus.

WHEN WILL IT END? WE NEED HELP! WHO IS RUNNING THE SHOW?!