Greenfield Main Street concerns spur meeting
GREENFIELD — Citizens have begun to come together to make downtown a better place.
The problem is, said Officer Jason Haskins, there’s no easy answer to the problems of crime, vagrancy, drug use and other negative behavior that make Main Street unattractive to residents, visitors and shoppers.
“These problems are in every city, USA, and there’s no simple solution,” Haskins said.
While there is a small criminal element downtown, he said, the perception of crime can be just as harmful to Main Street.
To get a better grasp on the issues and begin coming up with solutions, Haskins called a community meeting, held at the Holy Trinity Church Thursday night.
Dozens attended, including residents, business owners, concerned parents, deputy sheriffs, the mayor, members of the Public Safety Commission and members of the RECOVER Project and the Green River House.
Haskins said he’s identified five groups that create the bulk of the problems on Main Street: Career criminals, mental health patients, recovering addicts, current addicts and the homeless.
“We have no problem arresting career criminals,” said Haskins. “The others aren’t the type of clientele that arresting will help.”
Haskins has been walking the downtown beat since last year, and has had countless conversations with those he comes across, from business owners to the homeless, and everyone in between.
He said many of the recovering addicts and homeless people who hang out downtown tell him they wouldn’t be loitering on the street if there was something better for them to do.
Many, he said, have suggested an “adult” park, where they could engage in activities like horseshoes, badminton and croquet. Haskins said he brought the idea up to Mayor William Martin, who supported it — with a catch.
“Let’s make them earn it,” the mayor said.
He suggested they pick up litter, clean graffiti in town parks, or provide other community service. Not only would they be doing the town a favor, he and Haskins agreed, but they would be engaging themselves in positive, community-building activity.
“It’s a great idea,” said Mary Martel, owner of Magical Child toy store. “These people have nowhere to go and nothing to do. This would give them structure.”
She said loitering and vandalism are two of the biggest issues she sees.
Some suggested that the town re-open its closed Sanderson Street teen center, to give adolescents a place to go as well.
Others said that some of the town’s issues might be solved by connecting people with the social services they need, be they mental health care or addiction treatment.
Members of the Recover Project suggested that its peer-to-peer addiction support services, as well as services of other local groups, be made more well-known, so that people can connect with the resources they need.
Haskins said he would have liked to see more of the people who walk Greenfield’s streets at the meeting. Since they’re perceived as the problem, he said, they should be part of the conversation. Many at the meeting agreed.
Another community conversation on downtown Greenfield is in the works, tentatively scheduled for July 10, though the time and venue have yet to be determined.
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