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Real solutions needed in wake of another downtown shooting


April 10, 2014
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

Springfield had another shooting in its entertainment district over the weekend, which has become great fodder for the folks who hate and fear the city in the first place.

My question, though, is to the people who care about the city instead of those who toss up a snarky response on the web and hide behind a pseudonym.

What would you do to address this kind of violence?

Let’s look at what has been done. Clubs and bars in the entertainment district generally hire off-duty police officers as additional security. There are police patrols downtown on the nights when the clubs are open – generally Thursday through Sunday. In order to encourage the quick and effective departure from the area at 2 a.m., the Sarno administration has altered the end time of entertainment for many of the clubs.

Mayor Domenic Sarno has also urged the Board of License Commissioners to change the closing time for alcohol service to 1 a.m. in an effort to discourage potential violence.

There are several conflicting efforts in play in downtown Springfield. Do we as a city want a club quarter? I think many people would say “yes” as that is a feature most people would assume comes with a city of 155,000 people.

Do we want the jobs and tax revenue that comes with the club quarter to go away? I believe most city residents would say no.

Would clubs that are designed to attract young adults also face problems such as over-serving? Yes. Having been a bartender I can tell you it’s very difficult to ascertain how many drinks a patron has had at other establishments before he walks into yours.

Do these clubs attract people from out of the city who may behave in a manner differently than they would in their own hometown? Yes.

Does the music and popular culture embraced by millions of Americans have elements that many of us see as celebrating violence, ignorance and misogyny? Are these elements part of an evening of entertainment? I’m afraid so.

Are the owners and managers of the clubs in downtown Springfield directly responsible for the violence that may take place near their businesses? That can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.

So what can be done?

I agree with people who say if a pattern of violence can be traced to how a club is being managed, then the licenses for that business need to be affected, either by a penalty of being closed for a length of time or removed permanently.

Right now are there any downtown clubs that fall into that category? Established “bad apples,” as Sarno would say?

I think we have to face the hard reality that we live in a society in which a young adult with a few drinks in him can “right” a perceived wrong by going back to his car, grab the gun he has there and wait for his victims to come out of a club in order to shoot them.

I’m not excusing anyone here. I’m describing what has happened in the past.

What are our options? Ban young adults from downtown? Ban all bars? Prohibit the sale of alcohol? Have checkpoints to search people and cars from weapons before coming into the district?

I’m interested in hearing what you think.

I really believe the city needs a fully operational police sub-station in the middle of the district. I’ll nominate the former Skybar location at Stearns Square. I think that kind of police presence will be needed to help deal with the various challenges the MGM casino will bring to downtown as well.

I also believe that recruiting additional restaurants to the area might also help. That may be difficult with the looming presence of MGM as I would bet many of the existing eateries are worried about their fate once the casino complex opens.

Drop me a line what you think.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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