UMass and Amherst police departments launch joint patrols
Chief Horvath, who has been on the job here for two weeks, came to UMass from the Connecticut Department of Correction.
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UMass Police Chief John Horvathhas established a mobile field force in which up to 10 police officers will be assigned to a van on select weekends that will patrol areas where large gatherings are anticipated.
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Newly inducted UMass Police Chief John Horvath spoke with reporters after being sworn in Thursday in the Mullin Center on campus.
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University of Massachusetts Police Chief John Horvath is leaving to become chief of the Rockport Police Department.
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Joint patrols by officers from the University of Massachusetts and Amherst police departments will be launched this weekend.
After a fall semester in which Amherst police have been dealing with increasingly rowdy behavior at off-campus parties, UMass Police Chief John Horvath said that he has agreed to start mutual patrols Friday and Saturday nights for four weeks now and four to six weeks in the spring.
“I’m very confident we can assist,” Horvath said shortly after he was sworn in as the ninth UMass police chief last week.
“Members of our department do a great job in keeping this community safe.”
The expectation is that two UMass officers will be paired with two Amherst officers, going to targeted neighborhoods near the UMass campus. They will go out in cruisers, but will also patrol on foot and by bicycle, Horvath said.
Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said the mutual patrols will allow better coverage at hot spots such as Phillips and Fearing streets. “It means more uniformed cops targeting specific neighborhoods,” he said.
“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.”
Horvath said the patrols will help officers develop rapport with the people having the parties and the property owners. “We’ll see what kind of impact it has.”
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.
Livingstone said there haven’t been joint patrols for a while, even though the departments have had an excellent relationship. Though specifics were being formalized this week, Horvath said he anticipates using the patrols between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Horvath, who has been on the job for nearly three weeks, said one of his priorities is to ensure students are making the right decisions, both on campus and off. He knows, he said, that part of the college experience is for students to find themselves, but not in a way that causes harm.
“I will be looking for participation and feedback from the campus community and the greater Amherst community,” Horvath at his swearing-in ceremony last Thursday.
He said he intends to be available and engaged in understanding issues of noise, trash and disruptions in neighborhoods in Amherst and Hadley where students rent homes.
“I’m looking forward to a very good working relationship with the Amherst Police Department and the Hadley Police Department,” he said.
Horvath said pushing the department forward, with its 63 sworn officers, will be an objective. “I’ll never sit back and rest on my laurels,” he said.
Horvath, 42, succeeds Johnny Whitehead, who departed in February to lead the police department at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Horvath is being paid $140,000 a year.
He began his law enforcement career in 1994 with the Hartford, Conn., Police Department, serving as an officer, sergeant and lieutenant, and becoming assistant chief of operations. Before joining the Hartford police, he worked for the Connecticut Department of Correction.