HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The mayor of Holyoke is responding to the rash of gun violence in the city from over the weekend. Five shootings occurred in three days, two of them turned deadly.
The city has seen stepped up patrols over the last 24 to 48 hours with local police officers coordinating with the FBI gang task force.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said his goal is to focus on more long-term fixes to the systemic issues he said lead to gun violence.
"We do the very best we can obviously, number one, to prevent it and, number two, to respond to it," Morse explained.
Morse said he and the police are doing everything they can to make the city feel safe. It's a job that involves stepped-up patrols with the FBI gang task force, following five shooting incidents over this past weekend. Two of them were murders.
"Do we have tough weekends occasionally? Absolutely. This past weekend was one of those weekends," Morse noted.
While other officials in the city and the district attorney's office cited gang violence or rivalries between groups in statements to the media, that phrase was absent from Morse's initial response.
In our interview, he addressed the issue head-on.
"The vast majority of crime is directly related to addiction, opioid addiction, drug addiction. Obviously, there is gun violence in our communities that is, often times, very targeted and gang-related. These aren’t random acts of violence against random people," Morse noted.
Several people Western Mass News spoke with on Tuesday said they didn't want to speak on-camera about the violence for fear of retaliation. Morse said there are safe-holds in place, should a community member want to report violence.
"I think folks should feel comfortable calling our police department. We do have an anonymous Text-A-Tip program in collaboration with the sheriff's department. We also protect the identity the folks if they want to provide information," Morse explained.
Though there are stepped up patrols in response to the five weekend shootings, Morse said it's not a permanent fix.
"We can only put so much police on the street and, obviously, we can’t afford to put a police officer on every corner, nor would we want to, right? So for us, it’s making long-term investments in treatment," Morse noted.
[Reporter: What’s your mindset as you're hearing all these reports come in?]
"Just that it’s unfortunate. I mean I’ve been mayor, like I said, over eight years and so it’s not unusual for me to get a text or to get a call and, you know, you don’t have time to opine or be emotional. You deal with it," Morse said.
Though Morse said violent weekends can be unsettling, he claims overall crime in the city has come down 35 percent in the last 35 years.