Mayor updates actions of violence task force
Date: 8/30/2011Aug. 31, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD As if to underscore the level of violent crime in the city, two days after a press conference to inform the public of measures taken by the Violence Prevention Task Force, the city suffered two more homicides.
Jonathan Tallaj, a 25-year-old citizen of Springfield, was the victim of a shooting at 77 Wilmont St. on Aug. 23 and a female juvenile (not yet named by authorities) was shot on Aug. 24 at the corner at State and Andrews streets. Detective Captain Peter Dillon is leading both investigations.
At the Aug. 23 press conference, Mayor Domenic Sarno said the task force which consists of the district attorney, state and local police officials, probation officials, members of the city Law Department, the city’s school superintendent and others has been meeting weekly during the past two months.
The focus of the group has been on gang violence and the guns and drugs that fuel it, according to Sarno.
Hampden Country District Attorney Mark Mastrioanni said, “I’m satisfied with the effort being made but certainly not content.”
Mastrioanni continued, “I’ve been frustrated by the lack of funds available [for efforts] that depart from the traditional police approach to fighting crime.”
Police Commissioner William Fitchet said, “The gang problem in Springfield is serious, but it is serious in communities across the country. Gangs, drugs and guns all feed upon one another.”
He noted that one collaboration the department has is with state probation officials in checking up on people on probation and making arrests if warranted.
The commissioner added there are more patrols in the Mason Square program as part of a pilot program and that there have been 133 guns removed from the street since Jan. 1.
Sarno spoke of two targets city officials have determined: illegal house parties and the River Inn on State Street.
Sarno himself noticed activities at the motel that caused him concern. There have been a number of police calls to the facility and City Solicitor Edward Pikula explained the city is also investigating civil issues such as proper licensing and health and building code concerns.
Pikula added the motel is already in Housing Court on one issue.
Sarno said there was a house party at 1921 Dearborn St. listed on Facebook, which the city has taken steps to close before it happens.
Fitchet said there have been at least two deaths associated with house parties and that “the social harm they do far outweighs whatever benefits there are.”