NASHUA — State representatives from Nashua are speaking out about the recent crime spree in the city and how to approach the problem.
One of those officials, state Rep. Mariellen MacKay, says now is the time to take back Nashua and help end the streak of violence before it gets worse. She is ready to help in whatever way is possible — even if that means approaching the governor's office for assistance.
Speaking to the Board of Aldermen and the Nashua Police Commission this week, MacKay said there are residents who fear for their safety.
Dealing with six homicides and 24 armed robberies so far this year, Police Chief John Seusing says he doesn't have an answer as to why there has been such an uptick in violent crime.
"That is very, very troubling for us, and should be concerning for the community," agreed Seusing, who stressed that the department is working around the clock to resolve and prevent these incidents.
When reached by phone on Thursday, several members of the Nashua delegation shared differing thoughts on why Nashua is being plagued with more violent crimes, and exactly what might be the appropriate action.
"This is getting a little bizarre. The people in Nashua are worried about it," said state Rep. Kenneth Gidge. "But the police are taking this personal now, and the people responsible for this are not going to get away with it."
Gidge maintained that Nashua has one of the best police departments in the nation, saying his primary concern is for the store clerks who are getting robbed at gunpoint, including this week's armed robbery at Jeannotte's Market.
"Don't play hero," he warned those working at local convenience stores and gas stations who might be subjected to a future robbery.
The increased crime in Nashua is a very important topic, and must be discussed openly by numerous agencies, according to Gidge. This is an ideal time for the delegation to find out what funding — if any — may be available for the city. If there are grants that might be available for the police department , this is something that needs to be identified and sought by Nashua's state representatives, he added.
Although he praised the police department for its hard work, Gidge said if the armed robberies continue to take place in Nashua, the police force will come under significant criticism.
Rep. Jack Kelley, a former federal law enforcement official, had a slightly different take on the situation.
Kelley says he is unsure whether the Nashua delegation can do anything to alleviate the crimes, explaining it is really up to the police department and the citizens who should be providing tips and reporting suspicious activity.
"I am not sure providing additional (police) officers would help very much," said Kelley, acknowledging it might possibly assist with overtime issues.
Although there have been 10 arrests from the 24 armed robberies this year, Gidge says his concern is that one person may be responsible for such a large amount of the crimes. He stressed, however, that the police department's undercover unit has become very effective in solving these matters.
"I think people have a right to be alarmed, but the reality is that the highest amount of crimes against persons are behind closed doors," said state Rep. Sylvia Gale, a retired child protection and victim advocate in New Hampshire. "This uptick in crime is happening across the state. I don't think that Nashua is unique to this. This really is unprecedented here — it is an aberration."
Gale says she still feels safe in Nashua despite the surge in crime, noting the city police are highly professional and investigating the cases thoroughly.
"It is terrible that things happen like this in every area, but I think there has been an alarmist mentality. I have heard it myself this summer," said Gale, reminding people to use common sense when it comes to protecting themselves. "People need to put it into context."
So far this week, there have been three armed robberies in the Gate City. Jeannotte's Market on Courtland Street, Dunkin' Donuts on East Hollis Street and Motel 6 on Spit Brook Road have all been robbed in the past four days.