|Volunteers Sought For New Pittsfield Police Substation|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
04:02PM / Thursday, January 31, 2019
|The substation will be housed at the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity Office on Columbus Avenue.|
Executive Director Carolyn Valli offered the space and Lts. Thomas Dawley and Matthew Kirchner are heading the effort to open it.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following a homicide in the fall, residents of the West Side began calling for more to be done for their public safety.
One of those ideas was to open a police substation in the neighborhood.
To help answer questions of funding, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carolyn Valli offered space in its Columbus Avenue building for it.
Now, three months later, they're looking for volunteers to staff it.
"We can't move forward with it until we have volunteers," Habitat's Community Outreach and Development Manager Dawn Giftos said.
Space has been designated with a few desks and chairs and the Police Department plans to bring in a computer linked to its system and paperwork forms that residents would need for reporting crimes or car accidents. The officers on the beat are expected to have their own keycodes to enter the building and will be able to use it to meet with people.
"It's a great idea. I think it is going to be a step in the positive step in the right direction for bridging the gap between us and the community," said Lt. Thomas Dawley, along with Lt. Matthew Kirchner, is heading the Police Department's aspect of it.
It will serve as a place for those who may not be able, or may not want, to go to the Police Department to be able to speak with an officer or report a crime.
"If an officer is available he go there and take statements right from that office because a lot of people don't like to come to the Pittsfield Police Department to give statements or speak to an officer. That's an area they can meet," Dawley said.
Habitat developed an application for volunteers, which is available at the Columbus Avenue office. The Police Department will vet the volunteers, run a background, and ultimately choose who will be authorized to work there.
"There are some requirements. If you have a felony record or stuff like that, you can't apply," Dawley said.
The volunteers will go through training. Giftos said they are looking for about 25 volunteers to be approved before starting the training process. Applications will continue to be accepted to add more open hours. The beat officers themselves won't be staffing the substation but will have the ability to use it.
The space had been a police substation years ago.
"Once we get committed volunteers, then we can do a schedule," Giftos said. "The office is going to be open based on the number of volunteers we get."
Giftos said the office will likely be open for limited hours at first but as more volunteers are trained those can be expanded.
Habitat, joined by five officers who cover that beat, met with the West Side Neighborhood Initiative on Monday looking for volunteers and updating the residents on the progress.
"It's a slow-moving process right now but it will be up and running hopefully sooner rather than later," Dawley said.
Police substations have been an off-again, on-again situation for a number of years. Police had substations about 20 years ago paid for through grant funding but when that grant dried up, the stations were closed. Six years ago, the city again opened three substations in various public housing complexes.