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Proactive approach needed to fight deterioration of Springfield

Date: 10/23/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

Crime in Springfield was once again a topic in this week’s news with the announcement of the recreation of the Street Crimes Unit, a group of handpicked police officers according to Mayor Domenic Sarno, who would act as a strike force against gang violence.

I’m sure there was much chatter from the anonymous pundits on local websites about this latest admission that Springfield has a crime problem.

The move was in response to several more shooting incidents that apparently involved gang members.

Regardless of what the Internet critics of the city might write, Springfield is filled with people who are trying to make a difference, who simply want to live a peaceful life and who are truly disgusted by this violence.

We’ve lived in our Springfield neighborhood for 23 years and our issues with the quality of life haven’t been centered on criminal acts, instead they been deliberate acts of selfishness.

Whether it’s been a landlord who installs an illegal dog kennel at his property (followed by an apparent drug dealer) to 25 year-olds holding a pillow case and demanding candy on Halloween – for their infants back at their homes – those actions have been among the negative ones we’ve experienced.

And yes, we called city officials on the dog pound and the suspected drug house. To solve the other problem, we stopped handing out candy and turned off our outdoor lights.

I’m making some more calls to city authorities this week about some other issues.

I’ll be first to admit that some actions – like a young man throwing firecrackers at my wife and I as we walked the dog – prompted a very angry reaction from me. I do get tired at how people who believe there should be no consequences to their actions.

Ultimately, though, I know that you could live in the most pristine neighborhood in the most exclusive town in the area and all it would take is one obnoxious tool of a neighbor to spoil a paradise.

This is why I wish the Springfield Police Department would bring back community policing: assigning officers to a district who really get to know it. I know it’s reassuring to the residents to see police in their neighborhood.

I believe that having police assigned to neighborhoods on a grass roots level build a neighborhood, just like neighborhood schools do. I understand there are fiscal concerns and I know the city benefits from having a police department that actively seeks and is awarded state and federal grants to supplement their budgets.

Fighting the deterioration of our city shouldn’t be reactive. It must be proactive. It should also be on everyone’s agenda.

Ahhh, no

A reader recently ended a letter to me stating, “By the way, buy a tie and dump the hippie bristles! The ‘70s are over. I know it’s too bad – I enjoyed them too!”

“Hippie bristles?” The beard stays as long as my wife likes it.

I do wear ties occasionally, certainly not every day as I’ve done at other jobs. I view ties as a necessary accessory in certain social situations, but not as a required one to do a job as an editor and reporter.

I’ll wear a tie for a senator. I’ve worn a tie to see the governor, but not always. If I ever interview the president, I’ll wear a suit and a tie. I think I have a good enough relationship with many other public officials I cover that they aren’t offended by my open collar.

I have to admit though that when I retire I just might let the beard grow to Gabby Hayes proportions and wear only bolo ties.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.