Northampton to install panic buttons in City Hall, adjacent buildings

  • Northampton city hall

@amandadrane
Published: 10/24/2016 8:05:39 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David Narkewicz plans to install panic buttons in City Hall and adjacent city buildings to protect staffers from potentially dangerous visitors.

Sometimes, he said Monday, people come to City Hall and are “agitated and upset about issues” to a point that staffers call the Northampton Police Department for assistance.

“Occasionally, we do have folks who come into the office who may present in a threatening way,” he said. “And there are occasions when we have to call the police.”

About twice a year, Narkewicz said, a confrontation in City Hall will require help from law enforcement. Most recently, on Aug. 10, executive assistant Cyndi Murphy was alone in the mayor’s office when someone with a complaint said he needed to speak with her immediately. According to a police report on the incident, Murphy reported telling him the office was closed and he responded by saying he would wait for her outside.

“It wasn’t a huge event,” Murphy said. “But when you’re alone in a building and you feel uncomfortable you make the call.”

Narkewicz said he’s often able to defuse situations, but sometimes employees are alone and those instances warrant consideration. 

“This is not something that happens often; it’s not a regular occurrence. But obviously I want to make sure that staff here are safe,” Narkewicz said.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had any kind of situations that unfortunately we read about in the newspaper. But, because that is something that is happening other places, we want to make sure we’re cognizant of it, because I think everyone thinks, ‘that won’t happen here.’”

In light of an uptick in mass shootings in recent years, Narkewicz called the planned security upgrade a sign of the times, and apparently Northampton won’t be the only municipality in the area with the emergency buzzers. Mayor Alex Morse’s chief of staff, Rory Casey, said Holyoke City Hall has had the capability for decades.

Narkewicz said the building was already getting rewired for a new phone system and so it was the perfect opportunity to install the upgrade, which he said will cost about $800. He said the emergency buttons will be placed in areas where city employees deal most frequently with the public. The devices, if pressed, will let emergency dispatchers know their services are required at City Hall without any verbal cues.

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said a town safety committee is currently reviewing possible security upgrades, including the possibility of panic buttons.

“Specific recommendations haven’t been made, yet,” he said Monday.

Hadley Town Administrator David Nixon said the town’s Municipal Building Committee is also considering installing emergency call buttons after the state’s Department of Revenue recommended them for the collector’s office.

Narkewicz said he’s happy his office is so readily used by members of the public, and he hopes that continues — with the additional safeguard.

“People come to the mayor’s office for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “That’s one of the roles that my office plays and I’m proud of that and I want it to continue that way.

“But at the same time I want to make sure my staff is safe.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.




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