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Springfield-based C3 policing getting national recognition

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

A state policing technique called C3 based out of Springfield is getting national recognition and is even being featured on CBS' 60 Minutes.

The C3 unit has been focusing their efforts in the North End for three years now, effectively cutting crime by about 60 percent.

And residents are thankful. North End community activists say their neighborhood just a few short years ago was something similar to a war zone, complete with armed gang members riding down the streets.

"If you were here in 2009, we've been living in the neighborhood for 40 some odd years, we needed something to change, we needed something new that could really make a difference," said President of the New North Citizen's Council Jose Claudio.

That's when state police came to neighborhood leaders with the idea of C3 policing, a counter-insurgency technique modified from the battlefields of Iraq.

Troopers arrest people in raids, taking drugs and guns off the streets.

But for them, that's only a piece of it.

"You're not going to arrest your way out of a crime problem, a crime problem is a community problem. The only way to address a community problem is through community commitment," said Deputy Police Chief John Barbieri of the Springfield Police Department.

The state troopers and Springfield police then called on the community to help take back the streets.

"You want change? Well you know what, get up and let's do something," said state police Trooper Luis Rodriguez.  

Now they hold weekly meetings and knock on doors to get to know people and involve themselves with kids and local schools.

"There's so much you can accomplish when you're part of something larger than yourself," said Lt. Michael Domnarski of the Massachusetts State Police.

With the help of a community-wide effort, in just three years, the North End has seen crime drop dramatically. These days, neighbors are calling the troopers on a daily basis to report crime or suspicious activity.

State Rep. Cheryl Coakley Rivera grew up in the North End. She has been watching the evolution of the neighborhood.

"This is about the entire city, this could change the face of the city and I believe that," she said.

State and Springfield police stood on the edge of the riverfront in the North End Monday, where community leaders have launched a rowing program.

"What we provide in this community is an option," said the Riverfront Director Jim Sotiropoulos.

Kids and teenagers vulnerable to gang activity come here to learn to work together.

"We had eight kids from eight different gangs ... they forgot who they were for 15 minutes," said the rowing director Erin Sprong.

Police say so far it's working and the change will only become more positive.

"There's always more work to be done, but you've got to be proud of this," Rodriguez said.

State and Springfield police say that they've also received calls from police departments across the country interested in implementing the C3 technique in their cities.

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