DA’s office to form anti-crime task force
Two recent grants will help the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office fight ongoing crime and intervene before juvenile firestarters become adult arsonists.
The DA will form a 47-town anti-crime task force to serve Franklin and Hampshire counties with $81,288 awarded by the state’s Community Innovation Challenge Grant Program.
The Northwestern District Anti-Crime Task Force will help local law enforcement agencies “identify, investigate and prosecute illegal narcotics offenses, unlawful firearms offenses, gang-related crimes, major crimes, human trafficking and other organized criminal activities,” said Jeremy Bucci, chief trial counsel for the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. He said the task force will also allow law enforcement agencies to operate beyond a single town’s jurisdiction.
The task force would work in conjunction with a state police narcotics unit assigned to the DA’s office, and coordinate efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, according to the grant application.
It will also enable law enforcement in the 47 member communities, many of which are cash-strapped, to pool their resources.
The grant application promises that the task force’s membership will contribute in-kind services and resources valued at $588,960, in the form of training, personnel, equipment and office space.
“I am fully confident that this innovative regional task force will make a real difference in making our communities safer and stronger,” District Attorney David Sullivan wrote in the grant application.
A similar state grant was used last year to create a similar task force in Berkshire County, after which the proposed task force was modeled, according to the grant application.
One focus of the task force will be the “drug corridor” formed by Interstate 91, which connects New York City with the Canadian border.
The DA’s office was awarded $63,750 to expand the Northwestern Juvenile Fire Intervention Response, Education and Safety Partnership to Holyoke and several North Quabbin towns, bringing the total communities served to 51.
The program, dubbed NoFIRES, works with children age 5 to 17 who start fires. “Juvenile fire setting is a serious public safety and community problem, with over one-half of fire setting incidents in the United States and Northwestern District being set by juveniles,” according to the application.
The DA’s office estimates that as many as 90 fires are set by youths in the district each year, according to the application.
Children are referred to the program through the juvenile court system, social workers, mental health professionals, schools, police and fire departments. Once referred, they are assessed, and placed in the education and treatment programs deemed appropriate.
NoFIRES was begun in 2012 with a state grant. In its first 10 months, it has served more than 40 youths.
Sullivan sees an expanded, sustainable NoFIRES as a “desperately needed” program that will help stamp out juvenile arson.
“I am confident that NoFIRES’ early intervention and treatment, along with prevention outcomes, will save lives and reduce injuries and property loss for years to come,” he wrote in a letter supporting the application.