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During the summer of 2013, NHPR’s newsroom took a closer look at crime in Manchester and how it affects the city and its residents. The largest city in a small state, in roughly equal proximity to Boston and the White Mountains, Manchester is in an unusual position, balancing small-city challenges with big-city problems.

Live Blog: Manchester Police Chief David Mara

Sara Plourde

9:56: Mara says, “We need more police officers and we need to more of the community involved.” Says we need people to look out for each other. “We need to work together.” The department needs to do a better job, as well.

9:54: Mara says stats are kept on how many crimes are solved. For example, on robberies, we do much better than the national average. “You constantly have to assess what you’re doing.”  

9:50: Mara says department is not very diverse, but says it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. “It’s not a matter of affirmative action; it’s a matter of effective policing.” We are getting more minorities and women applying.

9:48: Mara says “race is something people are hesitant to talk about, but it’s a dialogue we need to have.” If people out there felt like racial profiling was happening, that would be as bad as it actually happening.

9:46: Mara says department provides training for effective interaction with youth. “We try to reach out to kids when they’re young. We have a school resource officer in every middle school and every high school.” A lot of the kids in Manchester don’t have a positive view of the police department, so we’ll go out to the elementary schools and work on community policing. 

9:44: Migalli says racial profiling isn’t an issue in Manchester. “If we have an issue, we can talk to anybody.” Building trust prevents racial profiling.

9:42: Nabil Migalli, chair of the Arab-American Forum, says Manchester does a great job of building trust with the city’s immigrant population. Says city’s community advisory board does a good job of bringing up issues facing immigrants and refugees.

9:41: Mara says officers now on the front lines of domestic violence. Before, officers didn’t have the training they needed to deal with the situations. “I believe murder rates…are down because of efforts people like Monica have made in domestic violence.”

9:36: Monica Zulauf, president and CEO of the YWCA in Manchester, says she’s pleased to report they’re making progress, says law enforcement understands issues of domestic violence. “It’s now taken much more seriously.” 

9:33: Caller asks about “Stand Your Ground” law. Mara says “what worries me is the way the law stands now” you can use deadly force anywhere in a public place if you feel threatened. Says the potential is there for someone start a confrontation and then argue “Stand Your Ground” in using deadly force.”

9:27: Caller asks about dealing with the homeless population. Mara says the people hanging out in the homeless parks or the encampments aren’t taking advantage of the programs available to them. “There’s either mental illness or substance abuse involved there. Sometimes both.” Tried opening the Day Center program, but says, “What we’re finding is it’s a choice people making” to be staying in the homeless camps.

9:26: Mara says as a law enforcement officer, it’s a struggle dealing with drug addicts because you want the people off the street because they are victimizing people. “But there has to be a better approach.” He says more resources needed for better treatment.

9:25: Wilkie says dealing with the crime element of the addiction is important part of the treatment. “These are not things they’re proud of or things that would have occurred” if they were not addicted. 

9:21: Cheryl Wilkie, senior vice president of the Farnum Center in Manchester, an addiction treatment and rehab center, says Oxycontin taking more lives than ever. “We can’t just think this is a problem that affects drug addicts.” It’s not like marijuana or cocaine. “Coming off this drug is so painful, they will do anything.” Says the physical withdrawal from any kind of opiate is something you can’t imagine. “There are a lot of alternatives to incarceration programs out there.”

9:15: Mara says force about to go up to 220 police officers; much of what we do is “stat driven.” Crime analyst helps to determine where resources. There is an uptick in burglaries, averaging 30 in each of the last couple weeks. Last year, in January, noticed burglaries were up and we addressed it and got a handle on it. 

9:14: Mara says increase in assaults in the city reflective of changes in society. “People more apt to use violence…than they were 25 years ago.”

9:13: Mara says these drug problems directly lead to crimes, such as robberies and burglaries; users need to feed addiction.

9:11: Mara says biggest problem now is illicit use of prescription drugs. “It’s an epidemic.” People lulled into false sense of safe use of the drugs. “Before they know, they’re addicted.”

9:09: Mara: “Manchester was a different place in 1986,” less transient. Now, in the Manchester schools, up to 80 languages, sometimes it’s tough to find the right interpreter. Big uptick in crime in the 1990s, especially drug crimes and crack use. Drug dealers saw a wide open territory. “We got a big influx and we had to grapple with that.” Got federal funds to help successfully combat that.

9:08: Manchester Police Chief David Mara has been on the force for 27 years, says crime increases in the summer primarily because of the weather. “There’s a tendency to have more opportunity to have a crime committed,” he says, especially burglaries. “Most crimes are crimes of opportunity.”

As part of the kick-off of our Queen City Crime series this week, Manchester Police Chief David Mara joins The Exchange this morning to talk about crime issues facing New Hampshire's largest city.

The conversation starts at 9 a.m. Follow here for live updates.

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