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Amherst, UMass police to launch joint patrols

After a fall semester in which Amherst police have been dealing with increasingly rowdy behavior at off-campus parties, the new UMass police chief, John Horvath, said Thursday that he has agreed to start up these mutual patrols Friday and Saturday nights starting Oct. 12.

“I’m very confident we can assist,” Horvath said.

The expectation is that two UMass officers will be paired with two Amherst officers for about four weeks, going to targeted neighborhoods near the UMass campus. They will go out in cruisers, but there will also likely be significant foot and bicycle patrolling, Horvath said.

Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said the mutual patrols will allow better coverage at hot spots such as Phillips Street and Fearing Street.

“It means more uniformed cops targeting specific neighborhoods for specific reasons,” Livingstone said.

Horvath said many people have investments in the community and the joint patrols can help protect those vulnerable areas.

“We’ll see what kind of impact it has,” Horvath said “The real value in a lot of these is developing rapport with the people having the parties and the property owners to set a level of expectations.”

Livingstone said he believes this will improve the areas near the campus and allow his department to use resources better.

“We both agreed that getting people out of the cruisers is the best way to start,” Livingstone said. “We hope it’s an opportunity to talk to residents and students to encourage good behavior.”

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said she appreciates the cooperation shown by the two departments.

“It’s a strong statement from Chief Horvath and really demonstrates his and the university’s commitment to our community partnership,” O’Keeffe said.

The concept for the joint patrols developed following the recent UMass community breakfast, Horvath said. Horvath asked Livingstone about challenges and identified off-campus party homes. They agreed to use the joint patrols for four weeks this fall and an additional four to six weeks in the spring.

Livingstone said there haven’t been joint patrols for a while, even though the departments have had an excellent relationship. The specific details about how the joint patrols will function will be formalized next week. Horvath said he anticipates using them between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

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