Council Public Safety Subcommittee meeting – October 8, 2013

Subcommittee consists of Councilors Bill Martin (chair), Rodney Elliott and Vesna Nuon.

Much of what was said by councilors and members of the public seemed productive (aside from a racist rant blaming all problems on “illegal immigrants” and “slum landlords” by the first member of the public to speak). Here’s what the city manager and the police chief had to say:

City Manager Lynch assures everyone that no one finds the level of violence acceptable or diminishes it because it’s comparable to other communities. Ten shootings is ten too many. Isn’t sure more officers is the answer but he does thank the city council for appropriating more money for police overtime to target police activity in the most effective way. There are ten new recruits on the way all of whom will be assigned to neighborhood routes.

Commends the neighborhood leaders for wanting to be part of the solution and asks them to share their ideas about how that might be done. The city is launching a “see something, say something” campaign. District Attorney Marian Ryan will be in Lowell all day on Thursday.

Police Superintendent Friedl says much of the problem is due to marijuana sales because of the high price of the drug. The nature of gangs have changed. Fifteen years ago it was teenagers, mostly afternoon street crimes. Now gang members are in their late 20s and 30s, some are those teenagers who have now grown up. Gangs now are more measured in their activities, mostly in gaming and in the drug trade. There were more strategies that could be used against the teenagers (DYS, schools, social services). With 30 year olds who choose a criminal lifestyle, there are fewer tools that can be used. To develop and anti crime strategy, you have to understand the root of the crime. When we say the parties to a violent act know each other, we don’t mean to minimize the act. Similarly, if the victim is involved in crime, we can’t really say that up front. But every one of these incidents, the victims are “well known to the police” and few of the victims or witnesses will cooperate with us which makes it tough to solve and prosecute these crimes.

Our strategy must be data driven to use the resources you give us most effectively. Responding to downtown disturbances is more predictable than this kind of violence in the neighborhood. One possibility is to shift our anti-drug strategy because the violence flows more from the drug trade than from gang activity.

Some of the strategies planned:

High visibility vehicular, bicycle and on foot in neighborhoods
Increased motor vehicle stops since most perpetrators of violent crime arrive at crime scene by vehicle
Use grant funds to increase police presence in neighborhoods
Better connect officers to neighborhoods as was the case in the early days of community policing
Employ personnel from multi-agency task forces to go after mid-level criminals
Continue partnerships with social service agencies to pursue intervention strategies
Build a video camera infrastructure around the city to better detect crime and gather evidence
Deploy to trouble spots a “mobile surveillance platform” consisting of a police van with cameras
Continue to use social media to distribute information to citizens and to receive tips and evidence

Councilor Elliott criticizes the city manager for not pushing to put more police officers on the force. City Manager Lynch criticizes Councilor Elliott for repeatedly voting against his proposals for police overtime. Councilor Elliott then says overtime is not more police officers and then says the city manager doesn’t really care because he doesn’t live in Lowell.

Because the subcommittee meeting had already cut into the council meeting time by 15 minutes, it was adjourned with a promise to continue the discussion in the future.

2 Responses to Council Public Safety Subcommittee meeting – October 8, 2013

  1. Sharon Sawyer says:

    I was very active in my Centralville neighborhood organization in the time before community policing was introduced to Lowell. Things were very bad in my neighborhood, and the best thing that ever happened was the kind of community policing that was first put into place. It’s so important that the police get to know everyone in the community. The cops knew the kids and the kids knew the cops. Neighborhood Watch was very active was appreciated and actively supported by our local police precinct and the main police station downtown. Ed Davis was a great, hands-on superintendent who was from our neighborhood and took great interest in all the neighborhood crime stats. He came to most of our community meetings, and when he couldn’t make it, Ken Lavallee came instead. We knew the police department was actively engaged in keeping our neighborhood safe. We also had the Safe Streets program that helped us build community and take responsibility as residents to report crime in our neighborhoods and get real support, not just a lot of talk, from the police department and the city. This was very empowering to residents because their concerns were no longer summarily dismissed as they had been previous to Ed Davis’ administration. Also, community policing included things like cops riding bikes and patrolling on foot, so residents became comfortable talking to the police about their concerns. Schools were opened up to the community after hours for after-school activities for young kids that kept them happy and out of trouble while they learned new things. Crime rates fell dramatically as a result. It was only after community policing lost funding because the state and federal politicians declared it wasn’t working and wasn’t worth the money that the crime rate began to rise again. This is very disheartening and negated much of the hard work so many volunteers put into building safer communities. Bring back community policing. It’s money very well spent.

  2. Gordo Howe says:

    I’m curious to see the stories behind Fridel’s claim that marijuana is solely to base for the uptick in gun violence in Lowell. The street value of marijuana value isn’t nearly as high as other drugs which are just as easily available in Lowell. So either she isn’t very bright or she is not well versed in the underground narcotics economy.

    As far as putting cameras up in Downtown Lowell I know we as citizens can’t expect a reasonable right to privacy while in public, but I’ve never been one to believe security can be achieved through an erosion of liberty.

    How many times have the Lowell Police responded to a call involving steaming from an over intoxication at a local watering hole or residence? I understand alcohol is legal, but just because it’s the core business base of late night Lowell doesn’t mean it also doesn’t cause a nuisance for those living in downtown and those chose not to participate.

    I’m also pretty sure Rodney Elliot neighborhood hasn’t seen a shooting in the past ten years. In fact I’m open to someone to shoot this claim down, please prove me wrong. It’s pretty clear to anyone who has followed the council for the last year, it’s almost as if outside forces have nailed Rod’s feet to a soapbox. He becomes the master of the grandstanding against all things Anti-Lynch. The problem being you can’t complain about one thing (violence in neighborhood), but one vote against a common sense solution (more funding for Police OT). What’s the stench in the air I smell coming downwind of Pawtucketville? It’s that the smell of fraud or just Duck Island?