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A crime crackdown or not? Friday, October 21, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Two selectmen are calling for police to publicly explain their strategy for cracking down on crime, saying residents are growing more worried about their safety and deserve to hear what's being done to protect them.

Selectmen Dennis Giombetti and Ginger Esty want to see a public presentation by Police Chief Steven Carl about crime-fighting plans, especially for downtown.  The board recently met behind closed doors about the wet shelter, but they said that is not enough.

"We need to address some of the concerns citizens have about the growing nature of the crime, not only the frequency but the types of crimes that are going on," Giombetti said.

The discussion on crime has exposed a rift on the board.

Chairwoman Katie Murphy said she fears a police presentation could reveal confidential information.

She also questioned Esty and Giombetti's view that people are voicing fears about crime, saying it is not "the first thing or the strongest thing" she hears about when talking to constituents.

"I'm constantly around town, and I don't have people saying to me, 'This is a scary place to live' or 'I feel afraid here.'  I just don't," Murphy said.

That sentiment was met with disbelief from Giombetti and Esty, who both urged Murphy to walk around with them for a few days.  Giombetti told the board at its Tuesday meeting the concerns should not be dismissed because "they're real and they're strong."

"From my perspective, I hear it," he said yesterday.  "I think it's percolating up from various segments of our population."

Chief Carl and Town Manager George King could not be reached for comment, but King told selectmen Tuesday the chief has met with the board about an ongoing criminal issue.  He said he did not want to create the impression that police are doing nothing, "because a lot's going on."

It was not clear yesterday what that secret criminal issue entails.  The meeting minutes have not been made public.

Murphy cautioned she is not dismissing people's fears about crime, but wondered whether they are rooted in reality.  She also questioned the need "to be constantly documenting to our citizens that we're doing something."

When asked if the public would want to know how the police are targeting crime, she acknowledged they might.

"Every taxpayer wants to know their concerns are being addressed," she said.  "I guess I'd probably say (to Esty and Giombetti), 'What questions do you specifically have, and do you want them to talk strategy or talk about exactly what their plans are?'  I don't know if I feel totally comfortable with that."

Esty countered that the subject deserves to be heard in public, which would go a long way to helping the public feel more empowered.  The meeting, she said, does not have to cover confidential police investigations.

"People are not expecting to hear the secrets of the police, and we would not ask the chief to expose his people in that way," she said.

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