Park trouble leads to action

Police making frequent checks, community watch training planned

GREENFIELD — Some town officials are saying they want to resolve a problem concerning drug dealing and other illicit activities in one of the town’s troubled parks before things get out of hand or someone gets hurt.

Public Safety Commission Chairman Gary Longley said he, Butch Hawkins, one of the other commissioners who has a police background, and a liaison from the police department plan to meet with neighbors of the park within a week or two to come up with a plan, as well as discuss how and when some of the park’s neighbors will be trained to start a neighborhood watch.

“I don’t want to sit on the complaints about Hillside,” said Longley. “I want this resolved within one to two months.”

Longley said within a few days he will be talking with Margaret Betts, the West Street resident who is leading the charge to “take back” Hillside Park.

Longley said training for a neighborhood watch would include teaching residents how to document what they are seeing from their windows. He said he does not want neighbors of the park confronting law breakers and getting hurt.

“When people call the police, they need to be very specific about what they see — how tall the person is, what they are wearing, what color their hair is, anything that would help police find that person,” he said. “People don’t always think about those things, because they call upset.”

Longley said the commission will also be talking with police to see what they need from the mayor, the commission, the community or others to do their job.

Since the commission met Wednesday to discuss the issue, police have been checking the park several times a day. Police checked on the park four times on Thursday and before 10 a.m. on Friday had checked on it three times. He said the town will also be sending its downtown officer to the park sometime during each shift.

Longley said installing surveillance cameras and fixing an opening in the fence around the park that leads to Conway Street were good ideas. He said making sure law-abiding residents are using the park is a very good idea, but said he wants to make sure people are safe, also.

Longley said what is going to be difficult, because it involves money, is to increase a police presence in all parks in Greenfield.

At-large Town Councilor Patrick Devlin said he is impressed with how residents of the Hillside Park area are stepping up and want to resolve the issue in a positive manner.

Devlin said councilors can’t do a whole lot more than support their constituents and keep in constant contact with the commission, police and the mayor to make sure the problem is being resolved.

He said he would like to see the town start planning activities and events in the park —“one of the better ideas.”

Devlin said a suggestion about putting surveillance cameras in the park is a good one, but will cost money.

At-large Town Councilor Mark Maloni said the entire town is taking the complaints about Hillside Park seriously. He said it isn’t just a Precinct 8 issue.

“We need to find a permanent, sustainable and realistic solution,” said Maloni. “We don’t want to just push them into another park or area.”

He said he believes the reason there are more problems in Hillside Park than in some of the town’s other parks is because unlike Beacon Field, for instance, which Maloni described as being a fish bowl because all of the homes there face the park, Hillside is hidden and the houses around it have their backs to it.

Maloni, who is also a member of the council’s Community Relations and Education Committee, said he’d like the committee to talk about the issues during an upcoming meeting.

“We could at least get some more ideas,” he said. “We all need to help.”

The town’s other parks are: Abercrombie Field in East Greenfield, Beacon Field, Greenfield Energy Park off Miles Street, Green River Park off Deerfield Street, Green River Swimming and Recreation Area on Nashs Mill Road, Highland Park off of Highland Avenue, Murphy Park on Leyden Road, Griswold Conservation Area on Lampblack Road, Rocky Mountain Park, Shattuck Park, which abuts the high school, the Town Common, Temple Woods Park off Mountain Road, and Veterans Mall on Main Street.

There have been issues in other parks over the years, including the Energy Park, in which surveillance cameras have been installed recently and police patrol has been increased, the town’s swimming pool, and Green River Park.

Those parks are also more off the beaten track.

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