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Police chief Baker & Mayor Louras of Rutland went to Springfield

Chief Baker in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — The police chief, James Baker, and Mayor Christopher Louras of Rutland came to Springfield Monday night to give local residents hope in their fight against the town’s drug problem.

Residents packed the Springfield High School cafeteria to say they were concerned and fed up about the drug problem in town.

“This is wonderful,” said Springfield Select Board Chairman Kristi Morris, acknowledging the turnout, close to 200 people.

Rutland City Police Chief James Baker said crime statistics told the story in Rutland, and how a data tracking and mapping program helped the department focus its energies on problem areas.

Baker said the methadone clinic was serving 400 people, and he said he believed that contributed to a decrease in crime in the city, since people weren’t out committing crimes to support their drug habits.

But despite the message of hope from Baker, residents still told of their frustration with drug dealers in their neighborhoods and downtown.

Bob Gross was applauded by the audience when he told how he had fought back against the drug dealers “four doors down” from his home.

He called the Springfield Police Department, Vermont State Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency, and every agency he could think of, he said.

And, he said, he became the “crazy man” in the neighborhood, to discourage people from using his backyard as a shooting gallery.

Gross said he was afraid to leave his wife home during the day because of all the drug-dealing, and he repeatedly found drug paraphernalia in his back yard.

Retired Judge Paul Hudson, a native of Springfield, had invited Baker, a retired Vermont State Police colonel before he became Rutland’s police chief, to speak to a gathering in his hometown.

Hudson said his hometown had a wonderful history, full of accomplishment and world recognition of the once thriving machine tool industry.

German spies lived in Springfield during World War II, Hudson said, gathering intelligence on the armaments under production at the machine tool shops. They ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Stark, N.H., the judge said. Springfield was No. 7 on Hitler’s “hit list,” the judge said.

Springfield Police Chief Douglas Johnston said he had proposed funding for a community crime mapping project in the past, but it had never been adopted during the budget process.

But Johnston said his department was working hard to combat crime, but he said one thing the department was guilty of was “failing to educate these people about what we’re doing.”

Morris said the two downtown shootings, which occurred in June 2014 and June 2012, had been solved, and nine people had been sent to prison. “And they are still in prison,” Morris said.

Since the most recent shootings, Johnston has instituted Main Street foot patrols, and Morris said he believed they were having an effect.

He urged the people at the meeting to work with the police department and report crimes.

“If you don’t report it, how do they know?” Morris said.

susan.smallheer @rutlandherald.com

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