With a goal of creating a safer environment for all citizens of Hampden County, the Community Safety and Outreach Unit of the Hampden District Attorney’s Office has establish various educational, intervention and prevention programs with community partners and maintain collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams that have an emphasis on assisting high-risk youth or victims of violence, including women, children, elders and persons with disabilities. Of note are the following office initiatives:
Stop The Swerve
Impaired and distracted driving on our highways is a public safety issue in Hampden County, as it is nationally. The District Attorney’s Office has developed a the Stop the Swerve Program to address this issue in a preventative manner, by educating teenage drivers about the consequences of substance abuse impaired driving and other risky behaviors that students engage in while driving, such as texting, speeding and failure to use a seat belt. A key, and effective, component of this program is the multi-media inclusion of actual cases, and the consequences which followed, as told by the offenders, investigators, victims and their survivors; some of whom address the students personally.
Through a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance the District Attorney’s Office is able to present an annual event to educate youth and their families on the issue of impaired driving. Held at the Basketball Hall of Fame, this event which is open to the public includes video presentations and interactive activities. Students from Hampden County high schools are also challenged with creating a public service announcement on the issue of impaired driving.
Any high school interested in having a Stop the Swerve presentation brought to them should contact the Hampden County Community Safety and Outreach Unite at 413-505-5913.
Youth Advisory Board
Student representatives form high schools across Hampden County work together and attend monthly meetings as members of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Youth Advisory Board. These young people focus on issues facing high school students such as alcohol and substance use, abusive relationships and social media and discuss ways to handle the difficult choices they face. They bring their message on these issues to adults at the annual Youth Advisory Board Conference in May. Through this board, the students are able to have their voices heard regarding many of life’s challenges. The Youth Advisory Board also addresses elementary and middle school students throughout the year on the issue of internet safety.
Education Against Senior Exploitation (EASE)
EASE addresses the senior population of Hampden County regarding scams, financial exploitation and physical abuse. Along with a representative from the Greater Springfield Senior Services, an Assistant District Attorney who specializes in elder abuse speaks to groups at elder communities, assisted living facilities and councils on aging about protecting themselves against abuse and scams. These experts on elder issues provide tips and advice to help elders avoid becoming victims. Any group interested in the EASE Program can call the Hampden District Attorney’s Elders and Persons with Disabilities Unit at 413-505-5671.
Adopt A Class
Each year, the Hampden District Attorney’s Office adopts a middle school class to engage in various activities and events. This class receives school supplies donated by the staff of the office, learns about the criminal justice system through presentations by Assistant District Attorneys, participates in a “Mock Trial” presided over by the District Attorney and receives a guided tour of the courthouse where judges and court personnel meet them to discuss their work in the courts.
Hampden County Addiction Task-Force
The Hampden County Addiction Task-force (HCAT) is a collaboration of community resources, State and local law enforcement, health care institutions, service provider and community coalitions. District Attorney Gulluni brought together these groups with a goal of addressing the issues of drug addiction and overdose deaths through a county-wide approach. By compiling data, sharing best practices for prevention and education, and working together to expand treatment, the task force addresses all aspect of drug addiction in an effort to put an end to the opioid crisis and help addicts and their families get the help they need to overcome addiction.
Hoop Up Springfield
Hoop Up Springfield is a basketball tournament/job fair, where inner city youth have an opportunity to show off their skills on the court in a friendly but competitive 3 on 3 basketball tournament. The tournament includes a workshop and job fair attended by a number of local businesses who provide job opportunities to the competitors. The first annual tournament brought together over 80 youth and 30 local business representatives for summer job placement.
The “Court Tour” program offers students the opportunity to tour the Hampden County Hall of Justice as guests of the District Attorney. Judges, clerks and other court personnel meet with students regarding their work in the criminal justice system. District Attorney Gulluni also hosts a round table discussion with students on subjects such as leadership, educational goals and community service.