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Police to promote Safe Neighborhood Night at WNEC

Date: 10/13/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Sgt. John Delaney, the spokesman for the Police Department, told Reminder Publications that city residents are becoming more and more involved in giving information to the department to help fight crime and a new event on Oct. 20 is designed to heighten that involvement.

From 6 to 8 p.m. on that day in the Rivers Memorial Building at Western New England College (WNEC), the police department, in conjunction with Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe Jr., will present "Safe Neighborhood Night."

The free event will offer information on how to begin a neighborhood crime watch as well as feature officers who patrol specific areas of the city who will speak confidentially about issues with residents that can range from quality of life concerns to criminal activity.

Delaney said booths with the officers from around the city is part of the ongoing effort to combat the "no snitching" mentality of some city residents. The event is the first time such an effort has been mounted by the department.

Another feature of the evening is the introduction of the department's participation with Text-A-Tip, along with the Holyoke Police Department and State Police Hampden Detective Unit. Delaney explained that if residents in Springfield and Holyoke see something suspicious they can text to 274637. Starting a message with the world "solve," they can then send their information.

The text message goes to a server in Canada, which then encrypts it so it is completely anonymous. The Hampden County Sheriff's Department takes the encrypted message and sends it to the proper law enforcement unit. The Sheriff's Department personnel can conduct a two-way message with the resident, who remains anonymous, before it sends it to the participating departments. That department only sees the encrypted alias assigned to the message.

The text message is "completely clean," Delaney said. "There is no way to trace it."

He is hoping that young people who use text messaging will feel comfortable giving the police information that can help solve or prevent a crime.

The Safe Neighborhood Night will also feature refreshments and door prizes, he added.

Delaney noted how community involvement could work with the example of a recent break-in in the Island Pond Road area of the city that was quickly solved with the help of neighbors who called in a stream of information.

He said that frequently when criminals are caught, the officers discover they are the perpetrators of other crimes.

"There's a domino effect every time that happens," Delaney said.