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'Weed and Seed' effort safer neighborhoods

By Alex Ross

Staff Intern

HOLYOKE A law enforcement operation underway for the past five months has resulted in the issuing of 31 arrest warrants, according to Holyoke Police Chief Anthony R. Scott who made the announcement May 8.

Most face drug-related charges. Eleven of the 31 suspects were arrested on May 4, while 10 others were already in jail on other charges when warrants were issued to them. Three other suspects have turned themselves in to police voluntarily, while six others remain at large and are considered to be possibly armed and dangerous.

The operation was carried out with detectives from the police department's Narcotics/Vice Division in coordination with the Hampden County Drug Task Force, the Federal Gang Task Force, the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the Massachusetts State Police, and Assistant District Attorney James Goodhines of the Hampden District Attorney's Office.

The 31 arrests are part of a federally funded program known as "Weed and Seed", in which criminal elements in neighborhoods are rounded up and then those socioeconomic conditions that can breed crime such as single mothers and housing issues are addressed.

" [Weed and Seed] is a federal program by which the police 'weed' a particular area of crime and social services come in and begin seeding to address social ills," Scott said.

The recent arrests in this operation took place in five areas of the city rife with crime, Newton Street, Lyman Terrace, Churchill, Teopfert, and South Holyoke weed and seed areas. Scott states that this two-pronged approach of law enforcement and social services, can bare some successful fruit.

"Lyman Terrace used to be gang and drug ridden," said Scott. "Now people are enjoying an enhanced quality of life."

"Weed and Seed" is funded through a five-year federal grant. Each year the grant must be renewed. The city is awaiting the renewal of funds for the second year, while in the meantime Scott is using department funds until the grant is renewed.

But while the operation has been a success in netting criminals, Scott sees the fact that these are repeat offenders who in many cases the city's police have encountered before, as a fault in the court system.

"This is a further example of the failure of our failing judicial system," Scott said. He highlighted the fact that the 31 people, who face criminal charges, have a combined total of more then 600 arraignments between them. "These 31 individuals are an ongoing criminal enterprise and the courts should take some type of definitive action to protect the taxpayers of this community who are sick and tired of the revolving door criminal justice system."