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New volunteer will concentrate on neighborhood watches

Date: 10/5/2010

Oct. 6, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- The new AmeriCorps Vista volunteer for the city is taking aim on reducing crime and increasing citizen participation in their neighborhoods.

Candace Thaxter explained to Reminder Publications that she would be working with all the neighborhoods in the city to increase the neighborhood watch here. Ward Four is the first on the list and there will be a neighborhood walk through the ward on Oct. 6 from 6 to 7 p.m. The walk will begin from the public library on Maple Street and the rain date for the walk will be Oct. 13.

The walk is designed to point out issues in the neighborhood and to pick up trash. Thaxter said residents from other neighborhoods are invited as well as those from Ward Four.

Thaxter, as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer, is working with the Hampden County Sheriff's Department and the New England Farm Workers' Council. She will be volunteering for a year and now lives in Ward Four. She said she has seen drug trafficking and gang activity there and understands there are problems with thefts and robberies in the neighborhood as well.

She noted, that between Aug. 16 and Sept. 16, there have been 126 arrests in Ward Four alone and since the beginning of September, there have been two murders within five blocks of the ward.

She observed that Ward Four is not like other wards in the city in that it has a mix of both rental units and owner occupied single-family homes. Other wards are dominated by one category of housing or the other.

Besides working on increasing the participation in neighborhood watches throughout the city, Thaxter will also be presenting programs on "target hardening" -- techniques that can be used to prevent someone from breaking into a house or apartment. She explained that many housebreaks are being committed by drug addicts who are in search of as little as $10 to support their addiction. She said that if people take certain steps and make it too difficult for an addict to break in, they would go elsewhere.

For more information, call Thaxter at 536-5403 ext. 229.

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