First homicide-free year in Holyoke in more than a quarter centu - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

First homicide-free year in Holyoke in more than a quarter century

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It's been more than a year since a murder has been recorded in the Paper City. It's a milestone that Holyoke hasn't accomplished in more than a quarter of a century.

"You know Holyoke unfortunately has been known as an unsafe community, and I think it's important for us to tell a new story about the city," said Mayor Alex Morse. "We're more than a city of problems and challenges. We're a city of possibility."

Officials say that some changes they have made over the past year are paying off.

"We're moving in the right direction, and it's because we've implemented a number of innovative and creative strategies around community policing," said Morse.

Those new tactics to fight crime include expanding bike and foot patrols, creating a mobile policing unit, opening up new community policing substations and launching a new K9 unit.

"My officers are working hard. They're doing a lot of good work out there. We've formed a lot of partnerships throughout the community," said Holyoke Police Chief James Neiswanger.

Bruce Burns has lived in Holyoke almost his entire life, and he says the police are helping the city to move in the right direction.

"I think they try and do a good job," said Burns.

But others say crime continues to be a major problem.

"There's always something," said Holyoke resident Suk-Cha Bergeron. "There's always someone shooting someone, a stolen pocketbook, people threatening for money."

Officials say there is a lot of work to be done. The city's police chief says that drugs are one of Holyoke's biggest challenges, making up some 75 percent of the crime. It's one of many problems he'd like to improve upon in the coming year.

"We have plenty of work to do," said Neiswanger. "This is great that we have had no violent murders in the past year but we're not done yet. We still got a lot of work ahead of us."

And as we enter 2013, the mayor and police chief say there are many changes ahead for the city, including opening up a new substation on High Street and expanding the newly formed K-9 unit.

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