Lack of Leadership on West Side

by Phil Greazzo

After all these shooting incidents here on the West Side, I would have expected at least one of the West Manchester Aldermen to step up and call for an increase to the number of officers assigned here or offer some plan of action to address the public safety concerns of our residents. Children were shot at by some lunatic and our Aldermen have chosen to remain silent. I find it inexcusable for them to ignore a serious problem that should have been addressed several years ago.

The West Side is roughly one third the size of Manchester with a quarter of the population and still has only three assigned officers. With the opening of the new Kelley Street sub-station, we now have two sub-stations for these three officers?

Police sub-stations are great ways to increase the police presence in any neighborhood. However, I feel not having an officer assigned to them full time is a mistake and so does every person I've met going door to door. For example, the sign over the new Kelley Street station reads in big letters "Police" and under it in smaller print "Manchester Police Department". I can imagine a circumstance when someone needing immediate assistance will show up to the new "Police Station" for help only to find it closed or simply manned by a volunteer.

While at the grand opening of the new sub-station, I asked Chief Jaskolka if it would have an officer assigned to it. He informed me it would not, just as the one here in Ward 10 does not. Rather, it would be a place for West Manchester officers to take a break, fill out reports, or use to follow up on investigations, as is the case with the sub-station in Sweeney Park . The Chief did mention there may be an additional West Side officer assigned in the future, but even that isn't enough. I was glad when Mayor Guinta asked for increased patrols here last year and I'd like to see that made permanent.

We should have six officers assigned here, which would allow the "sub-stations" to be manned 24 hours a day and increase the number of police in our neighborhoods. They could each take turns manning the stations and being out on patrol; getting to know the residents and the problem areas. This would ensure quicker response times and continue to expand the great work Mayor Guinta has done in the area of public safety. In the spring, the fall, and especially summer, we should incorporate a foot patrol and continue to utilize bike patrols.

I'd also like to see police cruisers sitting at various businesses and certain neighborhoods at different times throughout the night. The 7-11 on South Main Street , between Clinton and Parker, is robbed constantly even though the Sweeney Park sub-station is directly across the street. Everyone around here, including the criminals, know it's closed at night and only staffed by volunteers during the day when it is open.

Residents believed these were supposed to be mini police stations, which simply isn't the case. The people who didn't know are shocked and disappointed to learn something portrayed as a "police sub-station" is in fact nothing of the sort. The residents of West Manchester were expecting more than what they've got.

We elect our Alderman to look out for our neighborhoods and take the lead on important issues like public safety. When major issues do arise we expect them to respond and address our concerns. I haven't seen that sort of leadership on the West Side since Bill Cashin was our Alderman. He was on top of things and took care of everyone's needs as best he could. He knew the neighborhoods extremely well and what was going on in them. Mr. Cashin was very responsive and dealt with things before they became larger problems. What we have today is far from his example.

A "Neighbor Helping Neighbor" strategy is what we need in order to create the sense of community we seem to be losing. If you don't know your neighbors, go introduce yourself and get to know them. Help the seniors on your street to clear their walkway or driveway in the winter. Look after your neighbors' house while there away on vacation they'll do the same for you in return.

Society is very different these days; we need to return our neighborhoods to places where people know and help each other and not just where people live on the same street.