SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Springfield community leader is calling upon the city to offer more availability to speak with residents about issues surrounding violence.
Bishop Talbert Swan wrote a letter to Mayor Domenic Sarno asking for him to come to a meeting that would be hosted by his church.
Bishop Swan says his church has been right next door to many of the shootings and violence that have occurred, and believes his community members deserve to be afforded the same special meetings and support that are offered to other neighborhoods and organizations.
Mayor Sarno wrote back to the Bishop saying that community policing meetings are held every Tuesday morning at 11 o’clock at the Mason Square Library, and several initiatives are underway.
Swan told 22News, “When you have community meetings you have a limited number of individuals that are able to attend those meetings. When you hold a special session designed to inform the community you can get out a lot more people and get them the information that they need.”
Mayor Sarno noted in his letter that Bishop Swan has been noticeably missing from the community strategic sessions. Bishop Swan says this is a reasonable request for his community members.
Read the letters from Bishop Swan and Mayor Sarno below:
Dear Mayor Sarno,
Back in April we communicated regarding your briefing with the faculty and staff of Springfield College and American International College on public safety strategies in light of the shootings around their schools. I noted that it was always good to inform stakeholders regarding the cities efforts toward curbing crime and violence. I also reminded you that two of the shootings, which occurred at that time took place within the proximity of two churches that are part of the district that I supervise. One took place on Alden Street directly next door to the church where I serve as pastor. Another shooting, which resulted in injury to a resident, took place at the end of Hayden Avenue. The Gates of Heaven Church of God in Christ, led by Pastor Jerry Carr III, is located on that street within close proximity to other location of that shooting.
I noted the deep concern of parishioners at both churches and at churches throughout the city in proximity of violent activity and requested that you afford faith leaders and their parishioners the same courtesy given to the administration and students of the colleges as our institutions were also affected by gunplay throughout the city.
As a community resident, stakeholder and chair of the advisory board at the Dunbar Y Family & Community Center, I am alarmed at the gunfire traced to the parking lot of the center and within the Old Hill neighborhood last night. Once again, I am offering to host a meeting with residents at a time convenient for you to address their concerns and outline the city’s strategy to curb gun violence in our community. Please advise regarding your availability and willingness to accommodate this request. I look forward to your prompt response.
Bishop Talbert Swan
Dear Bishop Swan,
I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated Wednesday, September 2, 2015 in which you expressed your concerns regarding the incidents negatively impacting the quality of life on the streets of our great city.
Please note that I share your concerns, especially at a time when the residents of our city make concerted efforts to work in collaboration with both my administration and the Springfield Police Department. While our residents and law enforcement personnel are meeting and developing strategic responses to these negative individuals, you have been noticeably missing from the community’s strategic sessions. Based on our conversation in April, I had hoped that you would have responded to our call to become an ambassador on our city streets and encourage resident participation.
My administration has been working tirelessly alongside residents, police, and members of the social service community in a number of arenas, which you, residents and other stakeholders have been notified and invited.
As you are well aware, between the city’s standing Police Beat/Sector meetings, C3 community meetings, Neighborhood Council meetings and community outreach events that are jointly scheduled and coordinated by the City and other interested agencies and organizations throughout the City. My administration has worked tirelessly to ensure there are always multiple venues for our residents and stakeholders to gather and express their concerns and have their voices heard. I along with my staff have been to these meetings and come to the realization that the residents of our great city understand the notion of “working” to resolve our challenges and not engaging in non-productive grandiloquence.
As I have done previously, I welcome and re-invite you to participate and attend any and all of the community meetings/events, especially the C3 community meetings which take place every Tuesday morning at 11:00 AM at the Mason Square Library.
Our dedicated residents, law enforcement personnel, community organizations, and businesses have been meeting regularly to establish positive and productive relationships on all fronts. Currently all of our vested stakeholders are engaged in the following:
• The Mayor’s City Wide Violence Prevention Task Force: a collective of committed stakeholders who collaborate to: develop prevention strategies, interventions, and solutions to reduce violence; promote public safety by incorporating proven and innovative practices of community partnerships; and affect positively the youth, families, residents, and community partners of the city of Springfield
• The C3 Policing / Community Initiative: C-3 Policing is an enhanced grass roots community policing strategy that relies on public engagement with police officers through monthly meetings, door-to-door outreach and events with neighborhood businesses. Specially trained and dedicated officers from the Springfield Police Department are joined by members of the Massachusetts State Police to engage and encourage our citizens to participate in fighting crime at the grass roots level. Note: The residents have been very responsive with many participating “actively” each week.
• Mason Square Initiative: This initiative is a combined effort of a core group of law enforcement agencies, (Hampden District Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Springfield Police Department) and community leaders along with my staff which began meeting last summer. Our major focus has been to improve the quality of life in the Mason Square area. There are two major elements to this endeavor: To reduce crime by employing new tactics to improve transmittal of information from citizens to the Police Department and Identify and coordinate the many services and programs which exist to meet the needs of the community for at risk youth, abuse prevention, education assistance, job training and other social services.
• Monthly Sector F Beat Team Meeting: (Chair: Ben Swan Jr) Meets on the 3rd Thursday of every month at the Mason Square Library @ 5:30 PM. For more info contact Kathleen Brown 413.787.6359
• The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative: A newly established alliance is committed to working collectively and collaboratively to address many challenges facing boys and young men of color
These are simply a few of the many initiatives working to further reduce crime in the City of Springfield. There are so many more efforts that can be mentioned and expounded upon, but I think you see my point. I am proud of my administration and residents who are engaging on the grassroots level in these various venues to positively affect what’s going on in our neighborhoods.
In closing, I would like to again extend an invitation to join us as we actively work to seek out solutions to the challenges that any urban community faces. At the end of the day, we all want the same resolve, to get these negative individuals off of our streets so that all of our residents can feel safe in our neighborhoods.
Domenic J. Sarno,