Mariano: Making Worcester safe doesn’t involve horses!

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“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. …
The Lone Ranger rides again!”


Ray Mariano

Ray Mariano

When I was a very young boy, I loved watching “The Lone Ranger” on television. I imagined I was riding off, on my faithful horse Silver, to save some poor soul who did not have my strength and masked man charm.

As I got older, I realized that keeping people safe took a heck of a lot more than putting on a mask and riding into town to save the day. Keeping a community safe takes a total commitment from every member of the community.

Worcester is not as safe as it once was, or as safe as it should be.

In my opinion, public safety should be the number one priority of our city government. It is the biggest concern of the people who live in our neighborhoods — and every city councilor knows it.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto (not to mention Silver and Scout)

Wikimedia Commons

The Lone Ranger and Tonto (not to mention Silver and Scout)

So, how is it that we can make Worcester a safe community? Well, it is certainly not with “a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and hearty ‘Hi-Yo, Silver’!”


More Mariano:


The recent proposal by City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. to consider mounted patrols is a childish and silly approach to law enforcement. The manager wants to add four horses to help with, among other things, “crowd management.” What crowds?

At the most recent City Council meeting, one of the speakers mentioned using the mounted patrol for crowds leaving the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. I can see the desperados leaving “The Sound of Music” shaking in their high heels.


Editorial: For downtown Worcester, safety is the central issue


In Boston, the police abandoned this approach years ago – and they actually have crowds to control. It simply was not cost effective. [Editor’s note: Boston still has mounted enforcement through its Park Rangers program.]

The manager’s proposal would require the investment of nine members of the Worcester Police Department to staff this new mounted unit, including a lieutenant, a sergeant, four officers and three backup officers. Just imagine what Worcester could do with nine officers. For starters, we could assign all of the officers to permanently patrol Main South and rid that neighborhood of the gangs, drugs, prostitution and violence that it struggles with every day.

Or, we could assign them as extra patrol officers on Grafton Hill and Vernon Hill. If we have the money for nine extra members of the WPD, there are a dozen neighborhoods that could use the help. And, if we are not adding officers, we certainly should not be taking officers away from current patrols to prance around the Common on horseback.

The manager is asking the City Council for $100,000 for “startup funding.” He estimates the cost at up to $400,000 annually. Ultimately, I think the costs will be much more.

And I am not sure that even includes the money it will cost to hire some poor guy to shovel all of the horse poop left by these new crime fighters. Although one councilor had the brilliant idea to have young children volunteer to pick up the extra loads left behind by the horses.


Worcester Sun’s exclusive conversation with Ray Mariano


I could be wrong, but I believe that if you asked the residents of Worcester what single thing they want for our community, they would say they wanted Worcester to be a safe place to live and raise their families.

All across the city, neighborhoods are less safe than they were in the past. Ask yourself, do you feel as safe on Lincoln Street as you did 10 years ago? What about Burncoat Street, Hamilton Street or any other street for that matter?

Worcester has a dedicated police department and a terrific new chief. But, the police can’t solve the problems we face by themselves. And adding a few horses does almost nothing to tackle those problems. Can you imagine watching a police officer riding a horse chase after a gang member on a dirt bike?

City Council members know full well the concerns of the people in the communities that they represent. Why hasn’t the mayor and council made improved public safety their highest priority, established an agenda of action items and then gone out into the community to make it happen?

Unfortunately in Worcester, the City Council has abdicated its role as the voice of the people. As I wrote last week, instead of establishing the city’s agenda, the council has chosen to sit on the sidelines and cheer on the city manager while he does his job and theirs.

Worcester needs an entire agenda of actions focused on making our community safe. From what I can tell, that agenda doesn’t exist and if it does, no one is telling the community about it. Improved lighting, investments in more security cameras, attention to neighborhood cleanups and more officers on the streets — not horseback — are a starting point for the agenda.

The Lone Ranger and Silver

Wikimedia Commons

The Lone Ranger and Silver

Once the council has established an agenda, the city manager needs to be held accountable for making it a reality. He needs to carefully study where improved lighting will help, where cameras can be strategically placed, what neighborhoods are neglected and need cleanup.

A City Council that is focused and has established a clear agenda provides a city manager with a roadmap for moving the city forward.

Councilors need to drive their agenda by bringing it directly to the community. It is critical that council members let the community they represent know their agenda and what steps they are taking to achieve their objectives. Then they need to engage the community and gain their support. And they need, where appropriate, to get the citizens to participate in solving the problems (e.g., crime watches, neighborhood cleanups).

An agenda driven by the community and led by the City Council has significantly more power and is much more likely to get the attention and focus of the city manager.

Worcester is not Boston. We do not have a seaport or a magnificent skyline. We are not a capital city. Worcester’s strength has always been that it is a great place to raise a family, with safe neighborhoods and good schools.

Making our neighborhoods safe again should be our highest priority.

Rather than talking about where to locate the newest bike rack, the City Council meetings should be focused on crime and neighborhood safety. Every citizen of Worcester knows that there is more we can and should do — and we should be doing it together. Just not on horseback.

Raymond V. Mariano is the former mayor of Worcester and former executive director of Worcester Housing Authority. He grew up in Great Brook Valley and holds degrees from two city universities. He will comment on his hometown every Sunday in Worcester Sun.


More from the Nov. 6-12 Worcester Sun:

12 thoughts on “Mariano: Making Worcester safe doesn’t involve horses!

  1. Mr. Mariano is giving us a lesson in how to make an Argument! Two weeks in a row. Wonderful writing. This is one way a former elected official can give back. So many want to take….and stuff their barns with assets.

    Consider Worcester’s fine public bus system. Many parents are afraid of allowing their high school teens to ride on the buses. How many opportunities for community exchange and personal growth are lost each day? To what extent the problem is real or perception, the fact remains people are living inhibited lives.

    My father was a policeman in New York City and during times of many riots he went in on foot (sometimes while off-duty) and mingled with the people.

    He always thought the police horses and the motorcycles were excessive and more for show than genuine value. There may be a place for pomp and circumstance but that should be as overtime hours or volunteer hours and not at the expense of public safety.

  2. I agree with Ray, horses are ridiculous. Maybe he should consider becoming City Manger for his next career move!

    Paul Berube; longtime city resident.

  3. Where does Ray come up with this fallacies?

    The 3rd paragraph alone indicates someone wholly disengaged from the realities oof what the Mounted Unit is all about.
    That’s a shame.

    He has totally misrepresented and obfuscated the issue and facts in this opinion piece.
    The staffing of the unit comes from those already assigned to the Operations Division.
    These guys are doing foot beats now.
    There is no added costs to the WPD.
    Period.

    On horseback they can cover much more terrain.
    A Mounted unit takes the place of 8-10 Police officers on foot.
    The city is leveraging $100k into $400k which is a win right off the bat.

    Crime?
    Crime is down in the city no matter how much Ray wants to gin it up otherwise.
    The facts alone make this crystal clear.

    Ray is trying to have his cake and eat it to.
    On the one hand, according to Ray, the city is crime ridden and the Cops and Chief are not doing the job…then he goes on to compliment them for doing their job.
    Which is it?

    Ray is creating a campaign to get back into elected office each week he opines in the Sun so why not be honest up front and state so Ray?

    Another fallacy is the City Council has abrogated their duties and responsibilities.
    Absolutely false and Ray knows this full well.

    Steve Quist lifelong Worcester resident

  4. Mr. Mariano, you “hit the nail on the head” in regards to your straight-forward “take” on the ever growing violence in cities and yes, the suburbs- here, there and everywhere.
    The Mounted Police is a fine idea so invite them as a guest on occasion, but in the meantime, I agree with Mr. Mariano that we should target our resources towards community awareness/support, police presence in trouble spots, and the the use of technology ( ex. surveillance cameras).
    Always best to “nip the violence in the bud”- as we know too well- if crime figures reach a tipping point – there are no easy solutions.

  5. Mr. Mariano, you “hit the nail on the head” in regards to your straight-forward “take” on the ever growing violence in cities and yes, the suburbs- here, there and everywhere.
    The Mounted Police is a fine idea so invite them as a guest on occasion, but in the meantime, I agree with Mr. Mariano that we should target our resources towards community awareness/support, police presence in trouble spots, and the the use of technology ( ex. surveillance cameras).
    Always best to “nip the violence in the bud”- as we know too well- if crime figures reach a tipping point – there are no easy solutions.

  6. Nicely stated Ray, sure the novelty of a mounted police force in Worcester would be a nice touch but we certainly have bigger problems that should take top priority. Even with private donations to get this enterprise up and running, the bottom line is it’s still going to cost the citizens of Worcester a bundle, but they’ll still be afraid to walk the city streets in certain areas. I guess it looks like once again the politicians of Worcester are blowing smoke, at least during the last few months it appears they are actually trying to create a “Dog and Pony Show” right before our eyes.

  7. Nicely stated Ray, sure the novelty of a mounted police force in Worcester would be a nice touch but we certainly have bigger problems that should take top priority. Even with private donations to get this enterprise up and running, the bottom line is it’s still going to cost the citizens of Worcester a bundle, but they’ll still be afraid to walk the city streets in certain areas. I guess it looks like once again the politicians of Worcester are blowing smoke, at least during the last few months it appears they are actually trying to create a “Dog and Pony Show” right before our eyes.

  8. Funny the horses a$$ wants horses. Sort of ironic. People need to remember this next election cycle. The members of the city council just gave this boob a high rating.

  9. I couldn’t agree more! Assigning 9 police officers to handle 2 horses is like chasing after fools gold. As ray said, if you have 9 spare officers, put them on the streets, not in a stable.

    • Does anyone read anymore? The proposal clearly states that no new officers would be needed as they will come from Operations!

      • The point is not so much the horses or even the cost. It’s the fact that there is no plan. And though some may think this city is safe (compared to whom?)
        it is forward thinking to put the priority on safety. Once again, Ray, the voice of reason.

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