Photo Gallery: Candidates Forum at Greylock Bowl and Golf
NORTH ADAMS -- Would putting more city police on the streets stymie the recent increase in property crimes?
The question elicited a range of responses from the 10 City Council candidates in Thursday night's candidates' forum, sponsored by iBerkshires.com and hosted by Mingo's Lounge at Mount Greylock Bowl and Golf.
Incumbent Councilor Jennifer Breen and candidate Kate Merrigan were unable to attend because of prior commitments.
While the majority of those participating would like to put more cops on the street, many were also in favor of prevention and education efforts, such as the return of community policing efforts and neighborhood-organized crime watches.
"I think a lot of the crimes we're seeing are crimes of opportunity," said candidate David Robbins. "We do need to invest in more policing, but I also think we need to start with education programs, such as DARE. I think drugs are a major issue in the city, and that a majority of the crime taking place in the city is derivative of people being addicted to drugs and alcohol."
Councilor Keith Bona agreed that drugs, specifically heroin use, are fueling a majority of the city's crime.
"Unfortunately, it's a national problem," he said. "If there were two or three more officers on duty, would they have stopped these crimes? I don't believe it would have stopped these crimes, but I think it would help solve them faster."
Candidate Ben Lamb said in any community it is great to have a large police force.
"Presence makes a difference," he said. "At the same time, we need to look at this issue more holistically. How are we keeping children and college students occupied outside of class time? Are they going to the Y? I think that we need to look at organizations that are available outside of the government."
Councilor Nancy Bullett said the answer is education and vigilance.
"The fabric of our community has changed. We have to change with it. We need to know who our neighbors are. We need to look out for one another," she said.
Candidate Wayne Wilkinson said prevention, education and combating drug use are all part of the solution. But he wants to be sure more officers would mean less crime.
"We need to get the facts and figures before we throw money at it," he said. "If the facts say we need more officers, we invest in them. Should we throw some more money at crime? Yes, but we need to know the facts first."
Candidate Josh Moran said the city needs to be more proactive than reactive.
"Two, three, four cops would be great. Who's going to pay for it?," Moran asked, offering up the simple solution of citizens taking to the streets, becoming more visible in a positive manner and thus deterring a negative presence.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer said she's advocated for "more boots on the ground."
"Presence makes a difference. If we added two more officers it would make a difference," she said. "I also believe a lot of crime happening in the city is crime of opportunity."
Candidate Eric Buddington said he's seen a great response from city police this summer and is pleased by the response of city residents, who have begun hosting community meetings.
"For me, that's one of the first lines of security knowing the people around you," he said. "A link between neighbors and the police is effective."
Candidate Michael Hernandez said he believes law enforcement needs to be "beefed up" in the city, but he also believes communication is also an important part of the solution.
"Back in the 1990s, we had some grant funding that put community police centers in the neighborhoods and police on bikes in the neighborhoods," he said. "The grant funding only lasted so long. We need programs like this again."
Candidate Robert Cardimino said that rehabilitative programs haven't worked and blamed the increase of drug abuse to a lack of jobs and a lack of an adequate police force.
"Crime is rampant in this city," he said. "North Adams has 24 police officers. Williamstown has 26 police officers and 4,000 less people. We need policemen on the street. We need them in the neighborhoods. It's worked in Springfield."
Other questions posed during the forum included how to attract more businesses to the city and the role of the City Council. The forum was recorded by Northern Berkshire Community Television and will be broadcast several times before the Nov. 5 election.