UMass, town agree to improve public safety

By Chelsie Field

Matthew Harrison/Collegian File Photo

An agreement reached between University of Massachusetts and town officials last week aims to upgrade weekend public safety measures beginning this spring, according to a University press release.

The increased funds of about $40,000 – to be paid by UMass to the town – will add two ambulances to the town’s existing three, which will allow for the Amherst Fire Department to increase staff Thursday through Saturday nights, as well as help establish weekend joint police patrols between the UMass and Amherst police departments to bulk up forces on select weekends.

These joint patrols, to begin in April on Friday and Saturday nights, will be targeted at preventing “large-scale disturbances,” the release said, adding that select weekends in April will see the utilization of a mobile field force, a van of up to 10 police officers that will patrol certain areas expected to attract large gatherings. Fearing and Phillips streets as well as North Amherst in particular will be closely watched areas.

According to the release, Amherst Town Manager John Musante praised the agreement, saying “This is vital assistance from the University, and it will make a real difference in protecting the safety of our entire community.”

“The University is committed to working with the town to ensure that the safety and civility of our shared community is protected,” John Kennedy, vice chancellor for university relations, said in the release.

Other possible additional agreements include increasing the hours of University Health Services to lessen the use of town resources needed by students on weekends. However, the release states “because of regulatory hurdles and funding challenges, any changes at UHS will not be adopted this spring and are being looked at in the long term”.

According to the release, the agreement is in addition to the already established Strategic Partnership Agreement, for which the University paid the town $363,718 for ambulance service in the fiscal year 2012.

A committee within the University is expected to keep working on long-term solutions addressing off-campus student behavior straining relations between UMass and the town, the release stated.

“We’re working hard to educate our students to be good citizens, and we will continue to explore innovative approaches to this difficult problem,” Kennedy said in the release.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]