Springfield Police Department reinstitutes street crimes unit - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Springfield Police Department reinstitutes street crimes unit

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

The city's decision to bring back the street crimes unit was spurred on by what they are calling a spike in violence.

That spike has included 16 homicides this year, with four of them happening in the last month.

"I think the city is safe, but there's a perception that it isn't safe and someone's perception becomes their reality," said Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams.

In response to that perception, city leaders announced and applauded the reinstitution of the street crimes unit, during a press conference in front of the Springfield Police Department on Thursday.

The unit, made up of officers from other bureaus within the department, will target gang members and what police consider "hot spots" of criminal activity.

"They're going to target those areas and do it in a way that is variable," said Springfield police Commissioner William Fitchet. "That variableness is unsettling to the criminal element."

Lt. Robert Tardiff, who heads up the street crimes unit, said the element of surprise is key. He said it helped with the initial success of the unit back in 2003.

"We were averaging between 1,500 and 2,000 arrests and getting 80 to 90 guns a year off the street, just on this small task force," said Tardiff. "It's going to work out great and we're going to work really hard to make the citizens happy."

And in the process, Mayor Domenic Sarno believes it could turn around the lives of some impressionable youngsters.

"Maybe, we end up saving a young person's life by being able to bring them in and get them the help that they need, instead of going to another wake or funeral," said Sarno.

With officers being reassigned for the street crimes unit, Fitchet said the patrol unit will suffer the most in loss of man power, but the most recent academy graduates will help supplement those losses.

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