Community Safety and Outreach Unit
With a goal of creating a safer environment for all citizens of Hampden County, the District Attorney has created a Community Safety and Outreach Unit to establish various educational intervention and prevention programs with community partners and maintain collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams that have an emphasis on assisting high-risk youth or victims of violence, including women, children, elders and persons with disabilities. Of note are the following office initiatives:
Community-Based Youth Development Task Force:
Convened in April 2011, the HC-CBYDTF enhances juvenile intervention and prevention efforts county-wide by identifying and implementing programs aimed at reducing crime, substance abuse and truancy among juveniles in Hampden County. It is committed to supporting those programs that target the juvenile’s development of social skills and emotional resilience necessary to avoid risky behaviors, and alternatively, to secure safe school environments by identifying chronic, violent juvenile offenders for priority prosecution. To date, issues of internet safety, bully prevention and substance abuse have been identified as affecting school climates in the county’s schools. In response, in August 2011, District Attorney Mastroianni sponsored a three-day institute for school administrators and school resource officers, in collaboration with Westfield State University’s Center for Teacher Education & Research, on school climate and bullying prevention issues. Topics discussed included cyberbullying, family outreach strategies for administrators, appropriate supports for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender students, working with the “new millennium student”, and a guided review of each school’s bully prevention plan developed in response to the Massachusetts’s anti-bullying legislation. In addition, in October 2011, the Hampden County Youth Advisory Board, comprised of high school aged youth from throughout Hampden County, was established to assist the District Attorney in identifying issues of concern to them and offering suggestions for the promotion of safer school environments.
Safe Driving Education Program:
Distracted driving on our highways is a public safety issue in Hampden County, as it is nationally. The District Attorney's Office has developed a safe driving education program to address this issue in a preventative manner, by educating teenage drivers about the consequences of substance abuse impaired driving and other risky behaviors that students engage in while driving, such as texting, speeding and failure to use a seat belt. A key, and effective, component of this program is the multi-media inclusion of actual cases, and the consequences which followed, as told by the offenders, investigators, victims and their survivors; some of whom address the students personally.
Action and Awareness Training for Persons with Disabilities:
In September 2011, the District Attorney provided Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) with funds to conduct a series of trainings in the Awareness and Action – Educating Persons with Disabilities to Recognize, Report and Respond to Abuse curriculum and video as developed by the Massachusetts Building Partnerships Initiative for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities. This program assists persons with disabilities in recognizing, reporting and responding to abuse or crime(s) committed against them.
Hampden County Domestic Violence Task Force:
In April 2011, District Attorney Mastroianni re-convened the Hampden County District Attorney’s DV Task Force (HCDA DV Task Force), a project first established by former District Attorney Bennett. Currently comprised of twenty-six (26) participating members, that are largely geographically-based in the cities of Springfield and Holyoke, the HCDA DV Task Force meets quarterly to discuss issues impacting domestic violence victims and remains current with discussion of relevant topics involving domestic violence which impact task force participants. The District Attorney's Office also is committed to expanding task force membership to include community partners that address the unique issues facing domestic violence victims in the smaller urban and/or rural communities in Hampden County.