City Councillors are preparing to have a meeting to discuss last weekend’s shootings, but at this point there’s not a total consensus on how that discussion should go.
Councillor Giovanni Recupero – chair of the Public Safety Committee – said this week that he wants and Emergency Meeting to be called to specifically discuss the two incidents and several other street crimes that were less publicized – yet things that he believes built up to Saturday’s events.
He said it’s time to ask some tough questions. “I want to call an Emergency Meeting with the Chief of Police and the City Manager in the Public Safety Committee to find out how they’re going to deal with these situations,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about this within a discussion on the 10-point crime plan. We don’t need to talk about that with this. I want to talk only about this. People shouldn’t have to live this way. It’s time people are able to stick their head out their window and not worry about dying. It’s not the first time stray bullets have gone into people’s houses; it’s just the first time someone died.”
Council President Matt Frank said there would be discussion on the issue – and said he’s weighing the idea of a community meeting down the road for the public – but said he didn’t see a need for Recupero’s Emergency Meeting. That’s because he already has publicized plans to call a meeting on the 10-point crime plan – a meeting that will address the overarching issues of crime.
“The 10-point plan is our plan for crime,” he said. “That is the roadmap we laid out to help us get to a certain point. It is an overarching plan and encompasses what people have mentioned this week. Having another meeting might be redundant. The whole situation is scary and disturbing. The woman at the window, that’s concerning because there were people out on the street and arguing and why did they feel the need to pull a gun? Why did they have a gun? That’s a huge problem. However, as elected officials we need to understand the police can’t be everywhere all the time. That’s why we need to have an overarching plan…It’s not as easy as putting a police officer on every corner. Nobody should feel unsafe in their home or on the street.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he is reserving any comments until the 10-point plan meeting, but he did say he hopes that maybe there will be an 11th point – that being his public safety residency ordinance. He said he believes that instituting a residency clause as he has proposed – which would require new hires to stay in the city at least five years – could help secure neighborhoods and prevent such lawlessness.
City Manager Jay Ash said the City will collaborate with several partners in response to the violence, and he said they have to do a better job in preventing such things. “We’re analyzing each of the incidents, and asking ourselves how and when we could have interceded to have stopped them, if possible,” he said. “We’re asking what other resources or collaborations we can marshal to bring violence down further, with those collaborations including what else we can do to support the organizations in our community that do such great work on building community here in Chelsea. Of course, many of us remain frustrated by the availability of guns here and throughout our own society, so that continues to be a point of emphasis in our discussions as well. We have to do better, no matter the societal challenges we face. I remain committed to this; grateful to those in our community, from community organizations to public safety officials, for all their work, and frustrated that we are losing lives to violence here and everywhere.”
One long-time bone of contention that could help street violence – at least according to Councillor Joe Perlatonda – is creating walking beats and, perhaps, looking into going back to three shifts instead of having so many specialized units. “I get more and more complaints about the three cruisers being parked in Bellingham Square all the time with the cops standing outside of them and shooting the breeze,” he said. “Ok, maybe have one there, but why three? People ask me that all the time. Right now, we’ll have cops everywhere for awhile and then we won’t see them again. They say crime is down 40 percent, but it seems to me to be up. We need more visibility, walking a beat or regular patrol cars. It’s just not safe. People don’t see the police. The criminals don’t see the police.”