SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - After the second murder in Springfield in a matter of two weeks, Western Mass News is looking into the violence in the city and how the police are working to stop it.
Acting Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Claprood insisted that violent crime in the city is down among nearly every category except vehicle larceny.
"What actually bothers me more than a wrongful perception, it's dealing with violent people over and over and over again," Clapprood tells us.If crime in Springfield were a movie, acting Springfield Police Commissioner Clapprood says it would be like watching the same scene on repeat.
"It's the same players. We know who they are. They're not out on a warrant, they didn't skip court, and they're out. They have the right not to be harassed by us," stated Clapprood.
She says, with so many repeat offenders receiving lenient bails and sentencing, it becomes a herculean task to separate those truly rehabilitating themselves from those willing to commit crime again."We do a lot of times see them and make a stop and say, you know, 'What are you up to?', but, unfortunately, there's so many of them out there," continued Clapprood.
She says even the task of tracking repeat offenders needs to begin before they're released into the community.
"It's not a good solution for us to be following people around. It's a better solution for them to be incarcerated and getting the help, getting the programs and getting what they need in the first place," said Clapprood.Right now, the Hampden County Jail facilities have 1,193 people in custody, with room for 1,734 people total.
Jail officials say it's too dangerous for the jail facilities to be packed to capacity.
Clapprood says it would help the Springfield Police Department and victims if violent offenders could be sentenced longer."What would help us immensely is when these people go to court or if they're dangerous or violent, would be hanging onto them for a while," says Clapprood.
She claims lenient sentences makes victims and witnesses less likely to come forward with critical information.
"They know, as well as we know, they can give us information on somebody, we could make the arrest, but that somebody may be right back in their neighborhood a week or a month later," stated Clapprood.
Pressing rewind and starting the scene all over again, harming both the people and the perception of the community.
"I've had people say to me that it's more lucrative than doing things the right way. I've heard people say that that's the only life they know," added Clapprood. "It's very difficult to gain credibility when they don't see the results," stated Clapprood.
One place where that frustration turns to fear is evident is in the story of one Springfield resident.
"As soon as the Summer starts, everybody just starts acting crazy, you know, shooting each other and everything. No, it doesn't get better," one Springfield resident tells us.
More than a year after witnessing a homicide, they still asked us to disguise their voice and not show their face.
"I'm not healing good at all. It bothers me. Still pace around, watch my yard, everything, you know? It's hard. If I light my grill, I'm still worried," says one Springfield resident.
The State Attorney General's office tells Western Mass News that
"During 2018, 122 applications were submitted for their victims of violent crime compensation program. These are people who were injured physically or psychologically in violent crime within the city of Springfield. These victims have three years from the date of the crime to step forward and ask for help."
"I think we're maybe at a point now where we're making it so easy to just continue the path," said one Springfield resident.
In the meantime, city police officers rely on those who do reveal what they know, hoping they'll continue no matter what the courts decide after the arrests are made.
"We have officers who have some great confidential informants with their ears to the ground. We have people who monitor Facebook, who monitor social media, monitor twitter accounts," added Clapprood.
Clapprood says once area where she is hopeful is with the governor's proposed legislation, which would allow for past crimes to be considered in dangerousness hearings among other provisions to keep reoffenders off the street.