Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another Crazy Weekend For 1st Responders

McGuirk Stadium attracted upwards of 20,000

Yes with Umass annual Homecoming turbo charged by the return of football to a sold out McGuirk Stadium, the ever popular Apple Harvest Festival in town center, alongside the usual well attended Farmers Market, our little college town was pretty much bursting at the seams Saturday.

The Homecoming Parade started at the Haigis Mall at 11:00 AM and wound its way through most of the town center, although they took a right on Amity Street instead of finishing further south on the town common as they did last year.

AFD Engine 3 and Chief Nelson (black SUV) try to maneuver through parade

Only minutes after the parade hit the downtown a smoke alarm for a minor fire on the 10th floor of the UMass Campus Center brought a screaming response from Engine 3 at Central Station.

At first the lights flashing and horn bellowing seemed to be just part of the festivities, but when Chief Nelson in his black SUV maneuvered around the engine you could tell it was the real thing.

One of numerous calls AFD responded to at McGuirk Stadium

Crowd problems would roil AFD for the rest of the day, both at sold out McGuirk Stadium and again around midnight back at the UMass Student Union for a fire (false) alarm.

The morning started off badly for always beleaguered Amherst Police as they responded to a call from a woman at the North Amherst Mill River Recreation area reporting a Hispanic male "exposing his genitals".

The officer caught up with him but the (alleged) pervert put up a fight while making his escape.  The officer suffered a broken hand from the impact of a champagne bottle the perp was drinking from (at 9:30 AM!).

Later officers spotted the aggressor in town center and once again he put up a fight, breaking the hand of yet another officer with a kick, which will no doubt bring the charge of "assault with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot" in addition to A & B on a police officer.  

Two weeks ago another two Amherst police officers suffered debilitating injuries dealing with uncooperative assailants.  Thus a department stretched to the breaking point for lack of staffing, is now stretched even further.

Amherst Police would be kept busy for the rest of the night responding to noise complaints all over town as the summer like weather brought out foot traffic in droves. 

AFD had to respond numerous times to McGurik Stadium for a variety of emergencies above and beyond the expected overly intoxicated calls, although one ETOH case, where the young man was passed out in his locked car on such a hot day could have been a disaster.

 AFD on scene between Campus Center and Student Union near midnight for ETOH female

A more troubling incident occurred at the Student Union just after midnight after an ambulance was called for an intoxicated college aged female.  Almost simultaneously an alarm was pulled at the Student Union which was hosting a popular event that had attracted many hundreds of students.

 AFD Engines 2 & 3 at UMass Student Union around midnight last night

The evacuation sounded disorderly at best, and I detected some hesitation on the part of UMass officials to alert AFD as our fire engines had already responded in force 12 hours earlier to a fire at the adjacent Campus Center.   Plus we had an ambulance on scene just then for a drunk student.

Even more chilling,  however, it sounded like some exit doors had been locked preventing the easy flow of patrons out of the building.  Many of those that did evacuate congregated in front of the Student Union making it hard for the two fire engines to maneuver into place.

Within an hour the usual chilling scenario manifested itself as AFD had to rely on Northampton FD to come transport a drunk Amherst College student to the hospital as all five of our ambulances were busy.

Again the nightmare inducing scenario is for fire to chose that most inopportune moment to go on a feeding frenzy in, say, deep South Amherst.

Although fire is always nothing if not inopportune.


Anonymous said...

I have $20.00 says he doesn't get any jail time. Richard Marsh

Anonymous said...

And the record keeps spinning...It's the same story Larry, however, thank you for bringing it to light. Other than the first responders and the Town Manager, no one else is truly aware of how grossly understaffed the Fire and Police departments are. The Town Manager doesn't care...isn't that obvious? He only cares about his 100% fiscal management rating.

Anonymous said...

I am from Spain, so I dont really know who this works, but it's always necessary that when somebody is drunk, but conscious, call an ambulance? It seems too much for me, and we can save resources for important issues.

Larry Kelley said...

The vast majority of the ETOH patients are unconscious.

Anonymous said...

Gets worse every weekend and every year, that is why we saw newspaper photos yesterday of two former APD officers who are now state troopers.

Larry Kelley said...

I've actually heard the suggestion that's it's not any worse than previous years, it's only the bright light shined on it by you know who.

Which is about the only thing regarding this sad state of affairs that I find laughable.

Anonymous said...

I believe that I am one of the people in the picture. I was standing in town center as the police and fire engine hit the horns and sirens. At first, I thought it was part of the parade. Then, it was evident that they were trying to get around - I don't think the floats in front of them realized it though. I found myself thinking, "I wonder if Larry Kelley is here to see this - if so, he will put it on his blog."

Anonymous said...

Was every piece of fire apparatus in the parade? I would think an engine would've been held at North Station to respond to any AFD needs during the parade

Larry Kelley said...

Actually they did not have any apparatus in the parade.

Anonymous said...

Are staffing levels under 40 now with all the injuries? Will State Police be helping out more now?

Larry Kelley said...

Yes and sort of.

We would be getting State PD assist anyway for Halloween weekend.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time to just have a regular homeless shelter and stop having a wet shelter? This is just not safe.

Anonymous said...

At anon 9:00-
The shelter sisnt even open right now-the cease operation from April to November. Try again.

Anonymous said...

Too many tales about police issues. Perhaps "tolerant" Amherst should do something about this crime wave (or LEO obsession)....or could consider actually being tolerant.

I think every story on the front page of this blog right now is treatise to local policing. If I was considering moving here, and simply saw this blog (let alone read), I would be looking for a safer place to live, a place where there was not a demand for so many police and where local first responders were not overwhelmed by drug addicts and criminals.

There are many small safe towns in the NE, many that are so safe, they don't even have police.

Anonymous said...

You haven't noticed the yearround increase in crime and panhandling by hardcore addicts since the shelter opened? Many of the shelter residents don't leave in the warm weather. Take a walk in the woods. Read the police report. Where have you been?

keithw said...

Anon 10:09

I never would've guessed that Smurf village was in the NE.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said @ 10:09 AM...
Unfortunately, you are right but, the issue is not new. It's just finally getting the exposure many in Town Hall have worked hard to prevent.
Although both the police and fire departments need help, it's not as simple as the # of employees each has or hasn't. The primary reason for the problems is a cultural one among many young people. However, we also have individual town departments that have become like small nations entrenched in their own bureaucracies.
There is no doubt that the 'fire' department is overwhelmed (and I just heard a rumor that 2 employees up and quit recently because of it). However, if you look at the stats you will see that the # of fire responses has increasingly been exceeded by the # of ems responses for years.
So, what we now have are emts also trained as fire fighters (instead of the other way around) and led by a Chief who had no previous ems experience. That is a dramatic change from when (in the 70's) we didn't even own an ambulance. Perhaps a different approach to how we provide these two services is in order.
And, with all due respect to the police department, we may be at a point when a review of its resource allocation is also needed. After all, why are there almost as many officers of rank (i.e. captains, lieutenants, sergeants) and those assigned to administrative tasks as there are assigned to patrol (and, therefore, available for dispatch). Should we revisit the primary purpose of a police department and get more of the boots that we already have on the ground instead of behind a desk or tending to non-law enforcement tasks (8-4) Monday through Friday.
Perhaps, if we had more officers actually on patrol, SLOWLY cruising the streets and neighborhoods as well as walking through the downtown (the last officer regularly assigned to do so during the day was pulled from that-as a statement that we couldn't afford such any longer and instead was assigned to install infant car seats-go figure) getting to know us and we them, the tide might turn back towards seeing them as we did when I was growing up, with respect and a sense that they were ultimately there for you not against you. Wishful, story book thinking perhaps, but worth a try.

Anonymous said...

This blog had become a police blotter. With a little bash the schools for good measure.

Anonymous said...

11:33, many people feel the same way about this issue. Of course they dont leave in the summer. They would lose their spot to panhandle. Yet another statistic that Musante is ignoring.
If its going to be a wet shelter, they better work harder on the issues of addiction and mental illness.