Springfield, Mass. (WGGB) — Springfield’s North End is considered one of the most poverty stricken neighborhoods statewide. It’s been plagued by drugs and gun violence for years, but a new policing strategy is hoping to turn that all around.
ABC40 News discovered Wednesday evening, officers aren’t afraid to ask for anyone’s help.
While it may look like a typical police patrol for officers in the C3 Policing Unit, nothing is routine.
The third year program features state and Springfield officers, many with military backgrounds.
State Police Trooper Mike Cutone told us, “What is the mission? Unity of effort between local citizens, Springfield Police Department, State Police, to detect, deter, dismantle criminal behavior in the North End.”
That means thinking outside the box, even asking for God’s help. Father Yerick Mendez, a Catholic Priest from Sacred Heart, joined Cutone and Springfield Police Lt. Rupert Daniel Wednesday night.
Their goal is simply to make people feel comfortable so they’ll hopefully show up to weekly community meetings.
“Citizens come, Springfield Police Department, Troopers there. We work there to try to make it a community event and we want the folks to come to get their input,” explains Cutone.
Residents say having the police and priest randomly knock on their door is pretty surprising.
Life-long North End resident, Emily Cardona told us, “I was a little surprised, but you know it’s a good thing for them to walk around.”
From posting pictures of bad guys to drug busts to simply making young ones feel safe.
“Hey father, you got some hearts of minds to win. Some young souls looking to be talked to,” says Cutone to Mendez.
Those in the North End say the Springfield Police, State Police and priest connection is working.
Springfield Police Officer, Rupert Daniel adds, “In this neighborhood, we were just reacting. We’d show up, handle, and go to the next call. Now were spending a lot more time down here and people are getting used to seeing us plus with these meetings we have on Thursdays the people tell us the problem, and then they come up with the solution to the problem.”
Resident Migdalia Manfredi says, “With these guys working here, we think the neighborhood is getting better than before.”
Mendez admits he never envisioned police patrols being a part of the priesthood, but he too is happy with his neighborhood progress.
Police say having a Spanish-speaking priest is a major help in their patrols.
Father Mendez, the officers and all their North End partners will host their next community meeting Thursday, December 6 at 11:00 a.m. at Sacred Heart Parish Center.
ABC40 News will keep you posted on the unit’s progress.