Getting Answers: Holyoke mayor, police chief address increased crime concerns

People in Holyoke have reached out to our newsroom, concerned after the city saw its fifth murder of the year earlier this month.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 10:19 PM EDT
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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Western Mass News is getting answers after recent concerns of violent crime have arisen in the city of Holyoke. Now, Mayor Joshua Garcia is unveiling plans to keep the Paper City safe.

People in Holyoke have reached out to our newsroom, concerned after the city saw its fifth murder of the year earlier this month.

City officials addressed public safety concerns alongside Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni earlier this month as some worry crime may be on the rise.

Western Mass News brought those concerns to Mayor Garcia who told us that the crime rate has not really changed, but it may seem that way because more information is now being shared with the public.

“When I assumed office, there was already a concern from the public that the city wasn’t sharing enough,” Mayor Garcia said. “So on that front, we took it upon ourselves to be a lot more transparent and share information as we get them.”

Police Chief David Pratt said the department has been working specifically on upping their social media presence.

“I created some, a few officers to make sure that we enhance our departmental web page and are getting stuff out through Facebook and Instagram and that type of thing,” Chief Pratt told us.

The city is also working on initiatives to de-escalate drug activity.

“We do handle that on multiple fronts, not just attacking the drug dealers, but we provide a ton of wrap-around services to try to help people that are addicted and get them into treatment,” Chief Pratt said.

Mayor Garcia said that the city will continue to invest in housing, education, and youth programs, as well as support current police task forces, to curb crime in Holyoke.

On Wednesday at 1 p.m., the Mayor is holding a press conference where he will unveil a new program that will allow city officials to come together to tackle issues in the community.

“We’re going to be sharing with the public a series of economic development initiatives and plans that are going on for the city, different projects, but also, I’m going to be rolling out the flex squad initiative, thanks to my colleague and Springfield Mayor Sarno, that shared with me his strategy on what they did to tackle certain blite and other quality of life issues,” Mayor Garcia explained.

“The flex squad is going to be working collaboratively within the city – between us, the Board of Health, the DPW – bringing city resources together,” Chief Pratt added.

Mayor Garcia said that he will be sharing more information on an executive order that will offer directions to departments so they can adequately enforce city ordinances and laws.