SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A renewed agreement will provide peace of mind to visitors of Springfield’s Forest Park as visitation blooms with the start of spring.

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has agreed to continue to patrol Forest Park to maintain presence and peace inside the park as crime season ramps up with the warmer weather.

National Statistics indicate a rise in violent crime over the summer months and a rise in juvenile mischief once school lets out. To protect the park and the people in it, Springfield Police needs some help. Staffing shortages forced the department to cut its park detail years ago. But this ongoing partnership with the Sheriff’s Department gives people the peace of mind they need to enjoy the park’s recreational resources.

The patrols will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. with two deputies per shift through February 2024 in addition to the ever-popular mounted patrol.

Director of Parks Patrick Sullivan added that in the years since they introduced this Sherriff’s Department detail, the number and severity of vandalism instances has plummetted inside the park to the point where it’s no longer a pressing problem.

Mayor Sarno states, “Working with Sheriff Nick Cocchi and receiving raved reviews from the public, the city will continue with this unique and innovative partnership with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department with dedicated Forest Park patrols under the auspices of Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood.  The Sheriff’s Department patrols in Forest Park will continue until February 2024.  Deputy Sheriffs will patrol Forest Park in Hampden County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) marked cruisers.  Shift times are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, and 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm, with two Deputy Sheriffs per shift.  The HCSD deputies will report to Superintendent Clapprood.”

“I cannot thank Sheriff Cocchi enough for continuing this unique partnership.  We are so appreciative of the continued support of Sheriff Cocchi’s community-based approach.”  Mayor Sarno added, “I’d also like to extend my sincere thanks to labor union presidents Officer Joe Gentile and Captain Brian Keenan for their cooperative efforts in this joint venture. We have a beautiful park system, especially with our crown jewel, the Olmsted-designed Forest Park and we want to keep it that way – enjoyable for all families, who come from near and far.”

“From our highly trained deputies to the Mounted Patrol Unit and our Emotional Support Division of therapy dogs, we enjoy engaging with the thousands of visitors to Springfield’s Forest Park each season,” said Sheriff Nick Cocchi. “Since we were first invited to begin patrols in the park, we’ve found ourselves in the right place at the right time on numerous occasions, and made a positive impact in each instance. Whether it is enforcing the law, being a proactive presence and deterrent, or having conversations with the people who visit, we are looking forward to working alongside the public and our partners in the Springfield Police Department to have another great season in the park.”

Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood stated, “During these extraordinary times having partnerships in law enforcement is more important than ever.  Last summer the services Sheriff Cocchi and his team provided in Forest Park worked out very well for everyone and we look forward to continuing it again this year.  Forest Park has always been a safe environment and this will help us maintain a high visibility approach for our residents and visitors.”

“The Springfield Parks Department is thrilled to be partnering with the Springfield Police Department and the Hampden County Sherriff’s Department. The enforcement of the parks rules and regulations ensure everyone visiting the park has the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the park system.  Over the past five year, the Springfield Parks have received over $18 million dollar investment and the park patrols will be a welcome addition to secure the beauty of our parks and be a resource to our visitors,” said Patrick Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management.