Nashua police public safety program growing

NASHUA – Reading off several months worth of crime statistics for the Crown Hill area Wednesday evening, Nashua Police Department Crime Prevention Specialist Bill Adamson suddenly drew the attention of Gillis Street resident Bob Lovering.

“Was that the guy in the red car?” Lovering asked Adamson, referring to a driver who was listed among the arrests in Adamson’s statistics.

When Adamson said it was, Lovering was obviously pleased.

“That’s the one who was using my street as his own personal dragway … thank you for doing that,” he said of the arrest.

Lovering was one of several residents who attended Wednesday’s Crown Hill Crime Watch meeting, the second one held in the new Arlington Street Community Center.

Hosted by Community Policing Coordinator Ed Lecius, Crime Watch meetings take place in numerous locations throughout the city on schedules that alter from once every two months to once every four months, and in some cases twice a year.

Rooted in the rise of the community policing movement of the late 1970s and early 80s, the new Crime Watch program began taking shape with the debut in 1990 of its first two meeting locations – the French Hill and Tree Streets neighborhoods.

Joining Adamson and Lecius was former Nashua police officer Mark Hastbacka, who is now a special agent with the FBI’s Boston Division. He works at the Bedford office.

While Adamson’s stats covered the number, and nature, of calls police received for fraud, theft, drug offenses, overdoses and motor vehicle-related crimes, Hastbacka advised the group on how best to deal with the scourge of telephone and internet scams that have come to the attention of police.

Anyone who receives suspicious calls or emails should report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which can be reached at www.ic3.gov, he said.

Police have recently received a handful of calls for disturbances, Adamson told the group, noting that such incidents typically increase as the weather gets warmer.

Among the theft reports was one from a resident who told police someone stole the plow off his truck, Adamson said.

The first Crime Watch meetings were less structured and comparatively informal, taking place at volunteers’ homes, a practice that for some groups continues today.

“We leave it up to the group,” Lecius said. “If someone wants to host one (at their residence), we’ll do that. Some groups use a school, a community center, or in the case of Glen Abbey and Hollis Crossing, we meet at their clubhouses,” he said, referring to two of the city’s larger condominium complexes.

The French Hill and Tree Streets groups began meeting at a time when city officials were exploring ways to rehabilitate the thickly-settled neighborhoods, including taking action against absentee landlords whose properties had in some cases become havens for illegal drug use and other crimes.

Lecius said the two original Crime Watch locations had grown to four when he was named the department’s community policing coordinator.

“Now, we have 30-plus locations,” he said, although not all of them are currently active. It’s not uncommon, Lecius said, for a location to become dormant, noting that some are eventually restarted while in other cases, members begin meeting at another neighborhood location.

While the subject of crime, from recent incidents and prevention tips to concerns, perhaps, over a recent rash of unsolved incidents, typically takes center stage at Crime Watch meetings, residents are encouraged to bring up other topics as well, Lecius said.

“We’re often a conduit for other agencies in the city, like code enforcement, Public Works, Nashua Fire Rescue, the mayor’s office, he said. Agency representatives occasionally attend Crime Watch meetings to address any issues the residents may have.

Lecius concluded Wednesday’s meeting by reminding residents that a stretch of Main Street will be closed from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 4, as will a section of Amherst Street later at night for the city’s annual fireworks show at Holman Stadium.

For more information on the Crime Watch program, contact Lecius at 594-3544 or go to www.nashuapd.com/?A=Get%20.Involved&S=Neighborhood%20Groups.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.