During Thursday's live chat, town residents sent in their questions for Police Chief David Breen, with a general focus on local quality of life issues such as speeding and other safety matters.
Below is a partial transcript with many of the questions that came in from readers, as well as the chief's replies.
Edward: With the growing number of families with young children on Forest Hill, what is to be done about speeding? Every day kids and adults alike use Forest Hill as a cut-through oftentimes exceeding 40-45mph. Not even the emergency vehicles go that fast. With kids peeling out at the intersection of Forest Hill and Summer, this has become a safety AND quality of life issue.
Chief Breen: I have taken many steps to address the speeding issues in Lynnfield. We have changed speed limit signs to have more consistent speed limits. We have just added school zone speed limit signs this week near Summer Street and Huckleberry Hill School. Our traffic enforcement is up 27% over the same time last year. We will continue our efforts in this regard.
Bruce: How will the new Market Street project affect the police department? Will you have to hire more officers? How much crime do you expect?
Chief Breen: It will have a dramatic affect on how we offer our delivery of services. We expect our calls for service to go up significantly based on studies I have done with the Legacy Mall. That was built by the same company (National Development) that is building Market Street. We will be hiring two new officers next spring to assist us with increased calls for service.
Bruce: Will you always have an officer stationed at Market Street?
Chief Breen: We are still assessing our needs for the development and I suspect we will continue to do so after it opens. That will allow us flexibility in how we operate based on calls for service.
Lynnfield Patch: Another major project for the town is the fields complex - will the department need any new resources or officers when that is completed?
Chief Breen: Initally I feel we will be able to cover that area with existing patrols. I don't believe there will be a major increase in calls for that complex. Primarily, medical aids will be the major call.
From Marie: Hello Chief, I was wondering if you know whether or not there are any plans or discussions about putting traffic lights in over at Post Office Square?
Chief Breen: I am not aware of any discussion to install traffic lights in that intersection and I don't believe traffic patterns warrant it right now.
Chief Breen: The state DPW must approve all requests after lenghty traffic studies. I am not a proponent of additional lights in Lynnfield unless it is absolutely necesary and I don't see a current need based on accident rates. I prefer to keep the small town feel that Lynnfield is known for if possible.
From Don: Are there any thoughts on having a volunteer patrol for our new bike paths when they are built? I just don't want to hear about ladies being attacked much like happens in Wakefield on MY workout areas. Hope to participate, but do have to work. Thanks much.
Chief Breen: I would be willing to meet with you and others that may wish to ride the path as a citizens' patrol. However, I wouldn't want you to take any aggressive approach to dealing with problems. I would like to see a passive response such as notifying us by cell phone of problems and locations to respond to.
Lynnfield Patch: Follow up on Don's question - is there a Neighborhood Watch or anything in town?
Chief Breen: We don't have a neighborhood watch program now. Most towns that started it lost interest quickly. We do however, have a community of interest. Most people here in Lynnfield keep an eye out for trouble and notify us of any issues. I think as long as people watch out for the neighborhood and call us if anything doesn't look right, it seems to work just as good as a watch program.
Jim: Why are only some people arrested for driving with a suspended license while others are only summonsed?
Chief Breen: Some of the operators may have forgotten to change their address or paid a fine which caused the suspension. An officer has some discretion in those instances and usually will summons them to court. As opposed to a habitual offender. They will get arrested.
Lynnfield Guy: I read in the Patch’s police log about domestic violence calls. Do you have programs in place to help reduce domestic violence?
Chief Breen: We work with our partners on this problem. District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett has had a number of training programs. HAWC provides counseling and safe houses for abused victims. The court system also is very cognizant of the problem and works with probation to assist victims. It's a complex problem with no easy answers.
Karin: I'd just like to know what the chief's focus will be. What does he see as the department's priorities and how does he plan to address them?
Chief Breen: As I said, I intend to focus on issues that are important to the majority of people. But I also have internal issues like updating the Dept. with modern technology. New policy and procedure manuals were an obvious need here at LPD and I have upgraded it and will continue to do so. New computers in the cruiser allow us to determine if a street address has a gun issued to a person living there. Or we can see if that person has warrants out for them. Modern technology has changed the way policing operates and I intend to bring us into the new era.
Concerned Resident: Does the Lynnfield Police Department still have a DARE officer? What are Chief Breen's reaction to the opiate/heroin drug problem/usage/availablility in the North Shore area of which Lynnfield is not immune to?
Chief Breen: DARE is an old term that isn't used much anymore. Gov't. studies showed it had little to no effect on addressing drug or alcohol abuse so they stopped funding for the program. We do however, have a School Resource Officer. He has performed very well in that capacity and we would like to expand the program if possible. Funding is always key to these programs. Drug issues have been and will continue to be an issue and have a major impact on law enforcement.
Chief Breen: The most insidious drug by far is heroin. Some people start out on Oxycontin but can't afford it and switch to Heroin, which is much cheaper. Once they are hooked they will steal from their own parents. It's sad. We will have our first detective in the history of the department in July and I will rely on that officer to address the drug issues that are so pervasive in today’s society.