|Pittsfield, Habitat Cuts Ribbon on New Police Substation|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:07AM / Friday, May 24, 2019
|Mayor Linda Tyer joined staff from Habitat for Humanity and the Berkshire United Way to cut the ribbon on the new substation.|
Police were unable to attend because of an emergency situation but Office Friendly made an appearance.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The new police outreach center on Columbus Avenue is now open.
The center, or substation, dubbed the Community Outreach Post (COP) is aimed to bring the police more closely in line with the community in the West Side neighborhoods.
It was developed after a strong push from the community in the wake of murder on Robbins Avenue when a community meeting was held to discuss safety.
One of the main themes from that meeting was that residents wanted to see a stronger police presence and Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carolyn Valli offered space in Habitat's offices to help make that happen.
"We are a part of the community and we really listen to resident voice. If it is something the residents feel passionate about, really feel like is needed, especially to feel safe, we have an obligation to help them," Valli said on Thursday when the ribbon was cut opening the center.
The center will serve as a hub for the police and neighbors to connect. There is an office with computers inside the Columbus Avenue building linked to the Police Department system, various forms residents would need to report crimes or car accidents, and officers have their own keycodes to enter the building at all times to meet with residents who have concerns.
Officers won't be stationed there permanently but have the ability to use it as needed. A little more than a dozen volunteers have been trained in how to assist and will man the center three days a week — Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 8:30 to 2:30 — to help with resident's needs and concerns.
"It is all manned by volunteers and if we get additional volunteers, it will be open more," Valli said.
Mayor Linda Tyer helped cut the ribbon and said the opening is a source for pride because the city was able to partner with others to support the neighborhood.
"This is one of the best examples of how partnerships are formed. Everybody who is here probably came to the community meeting we had at Conte School a couple of months ago when neighborhood residents were concerned about crime that was happening on the West Side. At that meeting, there was a conversation about creating a community outreach police substation," Tyer said.
"We came together with our chief of police and with Carolyn and with the neighborhood and put this community outreach center in place for this neighborhood."
Police Lt. Thomas Dawley and Lt. Matthew Kirchner headed the effort for the Police Department. However, police resources were needed at a fire scene on Tyler Street on Thursday, preventing the two from attending.
In January, Dawley said he felt the substation would serve as a "step in the right direction" toward a stronger relationship with the neighborhood.
"It's a great idea. I think it is going to be a step in the positive step in the right direction for bridging the gap between us and the community," he said.
The center had a soft opening on May 6 to work out any kinks, Valli said and has already been used with regularity. She said it will help the community, at the very least, know the officers on a more personal level.
"It's been really cool because every day police officers will stop in, see what's going on in the neighborhood, talking to folks," Valli said.
Valli said the next step is to provide free legal clinics.
At the ceremony, Habitat also took the time to recognize the bookhouse that was installed — and decorated by the Christian Center — at the headquarters next to Durant Park. The bookhouse is a mini lending library for residents to take a book and leave a book for children. The United Way had partnered with SABIC to install 50 of them throughout Berkshire County.
"We are happy with this bookhouse here for the tender loving care it has gotten from the community," said Karen Vogel of the Berkshire United Way.