|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD Police Commissioner Edward Flynn noted his first anniversary as the city's top law enforcement officer with an appearance before the Public Health and Safety Sub-committee of the Springfield City Council on March 20.
Flynn met with Councilors Domenic Sarno and Timothy Rooke to discuss the progress the city has made in reducing violent crime.
Flynn said, "It has been a busy first year."
Nationally, Flynn said, there has been a spike in violent crime nationally between the years of 2005 and 2006, but Springfield has seen an over-all decrease of 16 percent.
The violent crime figures include:
Murder: 18 in 2005; 15 in 2006 for a 17 percent decrease.
Rape: 110 in 2005; 115 in 2006 for a 4 percent increase.
Robbery: 772 in 2005; 682 in 2006 for a 12 percent decrease.
Aggravated assaults: 1,792 in 2005; 1,453 in 2006 for a 19 percent decrease.
Burglary: 2,144 in 2005; 2,179 in 2006 for a two percent increase.
Larcenies: 6,018 in 2005; 5,994 in 2006 for a zero change.
Motor vehicle theft: 1,592 in 2005; 1,617 in 2006 for a two percent increase.
Gun robberies: 265 in 2005; 195 in 2006 for a 26 percent decrease.
Gun assaults: 323 in 2005; 286 in 2006 for a decrease of 11 percent.
While violent crimes in the city (including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) dropped in Springfield, it rose in Lowell and Worcester, remained even in Hartford, Conn., and increased in Bridgeport, Conn.
Flynn attributed the decrease in crime to several factors. He has changed the management structure of the Police Department by installing deputy chiefs responsible for the city's policing sectors. He has overseen a change in the use of overt-time. He has called for more "park and walks," in which officers patrol areas more by foot than cars.
He said the city has many officers who are good at city policing, but that in the past their talents were not necessarily used to the fullest advantage and there was no means for officers to discuss and implement changes in the department.
The department has also been aided by the assistance of State Police who patrol the city three times a week.
Flynn said he was also pleased with the growing relationship between the Department and neighborhood councils and associations.
The success the city has seen must be continued by properly funding the policing effort, Flynn said.
"We can not afford to trim our sails in year two," he told the councilors.
Flynn said he will fight for increased policing budgets on the state level. He said he would like to re-hire officers who were laid off during the Albano administration as he can, but noted many of the officers don't feel comfortable coming back to the city. The city has to have a plan on how to keep the funding in place for additional officers.
Flynn has also taken officers who were serving in administrative and support positions and replaced them with as many civilian personnel as he could in the last year. He said there is a on-going need for an experienced civilian staff.
Flynn said the city should remain hopeful as it faces the challenges of urban life.
"I'm convinced we will succeed while confronting brutal reality," he said.