AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) – Following a meeting Thursday between Amherst officials and UMass, the two entities have agreed to a set of measures aimed to improve public safety.
Beginning this spring, UMass will pay the town about $40,000 to help add two more ambulances on the road on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. This move will address community concerns that Amherst is “left vulnerable when its ambulances are transporting intoxicated students from campus to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton,” according to a joint statement released Thursday afternoon.
The measures announced Thursday are in addition to financial support UMass already pays to the town for ambulance calls. For last fiscal year, based on the existing agreement, UMass paid the town $363,718 for ambulance service.
UMass Vice Chancellor of University Relations John Kennedy says, “The university is committed to working with the town to ensure that the safety and civility of our shared community is protected. Today’s announcement that we are devoting additional resources to help alleviate the burden on the town’s first responders is part of an ongoing dialogue between the university and Amherst officials that is intended to find creative solutions to the challenges we’re confronting together.”
Joint patrols by UMass and Amherst officers will also hit the streets beginning in April, working on Friday and Saturday nights in Amherst neighborhoods, particularly the Fearing and Phillips Street neighborhoods, as well as North Amherst.
These four additional officers will be visible to help “deter unruly behavior and respond to residents’ concerns,” the statement adds.
A mobile field force will also be deployed during select weekends in April, with up to ten officers in a police van being “assigned to anticipate large gatherings and break up parties before they become too large or troublesome.”
“This is vital assistance from the university, and it will make a real difference in protecting the safety of our entire community. I applaud the responsiveness of UMass officials in providing concrete support to address this critical immediate need, and I appreciate their commitment to working with the town to find new solutions to ongoing challenges, for this spring and for the long-term,” notes Amherst Town Manager John Musante.
Other long-term measures that are being explored by the town and the University including possibly expanding the hours of UMass’ University Health Services.
Kennedy notes that addressing underlying issues surrounding bad behavior is crucial to a long-term solution. “We’re working hard to educate our students to be good citizens, and we will continue to explore innovative approaches to this difficult problem,” he adds.