City leaders will convene a forum Thursday night at Chelsea High School to discuss public safety issues following a double homicide on Chester Avenue, which has caused so much angst throughout the city.
The double homicide and four others committed in this city so far this year has caused a red flag to be raised by city hall, the police department, local organizations and residents.
Public safety is right now under a microscope, with everyone in a position of responsibility insisting that something must be done to stem the tide of violence.
At the forum, which will begin at 6:00 p.m., City Manager Jay Ash anticipates providing an update on past happenings, revealing additional city plans to address future public safety needs and to engage attendees in a general discussion on initiatives they might like to see the community or even themselves undertake.
“We’ll continue to take this head-on,” promised Ash. “There too many good people doing too many good things to let a small minority of bad players threaten our safety and ruin our community. We’re meeting their challenges with even more resolve, and others are doing the same,” he said.
Among the items Ash, the City Council and Police Chief Brian Kyes are preparing to commit to is a further expansion of officers working overnight and early into the morning and a doubling of the Police Department’s Drug Unit.
“From a policing perspective, there’s the short-term need of suppressing illegal activities. We’ve been doing that, with our arrests up 13%. Even more needs to be done. On the suppression side, it’s all about manpower, so, even though we already have more police officers and dogs than we ever have, we’re going to expand those resources yet again,” explained Ash.
Ash said that suppression efforts need to be supported by greater prevention and intervention actions, and the realization of that belief is not so much a policing matter as it is an overall community responsibility.
“Prevention and intervention are ultimately the best ways of dealing with any public safety issue. Preventing something from happening or intervening in the lives of those who are likely to be caught up in that something are proactive forces, and we do proactive here very well as well. In fact, we’ve got some great agencies doing outstanding work in those areas, so I hope we can talk more about that on Thursday too,” Ash advised.
Ash said he was painfully aware of the harsh realities facing the city. He said that there are too many young people carrying guns who are willing to use them.
“How do you stop someone who is ready to use his gun to kill another person?” he asked.
Police Chief Brian Kyes has expressed the same concerns.
“We could have 1,000 police on the streets here but it a kid carrying a gun decides to shoot someone on a whim, how do we get there to stop that kid if we don’t know he has a weapon?” he said.
Ash remains optimistic that public safety can be advanced locally. He says it will take everyone working together to make that happen.
“I’m up for making a difference, I know our Police Department and the rest of City government are dedicated to that goal, our community organizations are remarkable and we have some residents who are making a real positive contribution. Ultimately, though, it takes each and every City official, community organization and individual resident who want to be in a better community to do something about that.
“This all continues on Thursday night, but it’ll only work if every day after Thursday every one of us commits to being better stewards of this great community and truly championing the cause of the so many good residents we have here who want and deserve a good place to enjoy a great life. I’m looking forward to that continuing action,” concluded Ash.