Dogs! Drones! Robots! Touch-a-truck! Oh my! What an amazing morning for the Leadership of Greater Nashua 2024, crew. LGN spent the day learning about the City’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety systems. The day started at the Nashua Police Department with Chief Kevin Rourke, Lt. Dan Ostler, and Community Policing Coordinator Barbara Costa. Department leadership shared with us the organization of the agency, the tactical response systems and the municipal projects and initiatives ensuring safety as well as how they are creating and growing quality community relationships. They also touched upon their staffing needs, which are not unlike most other public service agencies. Despite the highest pay in the state, they too, are struggling to hire. As requested, if anyone has friends or family interested in Law Enforcement, encourage them to apply on the police department website! www.nashuapd.com
While at the Department, the LGN Crew bundled up and headed outside with Capt Trefrey for demonstrations of the Canine unit, the Drones, the Bomb robot and Unit, and the SWAT truck. I think all our inner children were giddy with excitement at all the gadgets and gear we were able to see!
The morning ended with a lunch-time chat with FBI Agent Mark Hastbacka, sharing some wild and crazy adventures ensuring public safety on a larger scale, but in tandem, at times, with the local police departments. One thing is clear as to why Nashua is the Safest City in America… Nashua and its surrounding areas are kept safe through high-quality and dedicated law enforcement officials who enjoy what they do!
Jen Bishop, SNHHS
Following the morning session with local law enforcement, LGN class of 2024 learned about the role Nashua native Mark Hastabacka played in protecting NH’s citizens on the federal level. Special Agent Hastabacka kept the class engaged through lunch as he regaled us with exciting stories from his 27-year career with the FBI. He summarized the role his Bedford office plays in current cases that affect Nashua citizens, as well as regional efforts to bring down organized crime out of New York City. Though he believes that the best work of the FBI is exemplified by the things that do not make the news, much of his work was familiar to the class from mainstream media, like rooting Ghislaine Maxwell out of hiding and pursuing justice for major domestic terrorism on 9/11 and during the Boston Bombings.
Speaking to a room of strangers for more than an hour, Mark’s casual and humorous demeanor proved his talent for getting informants to cooperate through his knack for reading people and building relationships. Though our jaws were agape at times, his vibrant personality made it easy to believe stories of how he got a confession during a baseball game, or how a person he once put behind bars stays in friendly contact with him, and one time even convinced a suspect to make a deal with Mark.
Next, we slid on down the fire pole (in tonight’s show the part of “Fire Pole” will be played by Lake Street) to Nashua Fire and Rescue (NFR) where LGN 2024’s very own Adam Pouliot, assistant Fire Chief & Fire Marshal, presented on the many hats Nashua’s fireman wear—not just fire helmets, but also diving caps and hazmat suits. With six stations around the city, Nashua Fire and Rescue truly is on the front-lines of public safety, following a strong playbook that helps Greater Nashua’s citizens stay safe and prevent crisis. Through hundreds of annual inspections of schools and other public buildings, public education campaigns, and by responding to local fire code complaints, Nashua Fire and Rescue is a huge part of the reason why Nashua is considered one of the safest cities in the USA. Of course, having 95% of the city on Municipal Water Supply (if you ever thought, does Nashua have a lot of fire hydrants? the answer is yes!) and more than 800 fire alarm boxes throughout the city certainly helps!
NFR Emergency Coordinator Tara Murphy came up next to demonstrate the essential role that NFR plays in emergency management, despite only having an office of two! With a slide-show gallery of natural, technological, human-causes, and biohazardous disaster scenarios, LGN 2024 appreciated the massive amount of planning that goes into keeping first responders prepared for floods, fires, and storms, so damage to life and property (NFR protects more than 1.6 billion in property revenue by the way!) is minimized. “All emergencies are local,” Tara said, explaining the role that city and town governments play every day in protecting their own citizens long before an emergency rises to the state or federal level. She also did a great job soothing our collective concern about sinkholes—a few of us started to lose our grip a bit after that part of the slideshow!
Like Nashua PD, Nashua Fire and Rescue struggles with staffing issues that were exacerbated by the pandemic. If anyone out there is considering becoming a fire fighter, there is much to love about the Nashua department. LGN wrapped up our portion of the tour nicely with a tour of the facility, including the cozy kitchen and lounge firemen call home at night and the bay where a fleet of emergency vehicles were being washed and prepped for the next emergency. Many LGN got to climb to the top of a big red engine and Adam even slid down the firepole for us!
The last session of the day was a panel at the Hillsborough County Superior Court where Judge Colburn and her colleagues in the Drug Court explained how this program, which was only a pilot 10 years ago, is now making a major impact on stemming the tide of a major health crisis in the county: substance use disorder (SUD).
Along with Tim McNamara from Greater Nashua Mental Health, Judge Colburn’s commitment to a more casual proceeding every Tuesday afternoon has made space for people who are in high need of SUD services, have faced legal consequences and are at a high risk of reoffending. Though every case varies, the average person who is helped by participation in this group has not had success being rehabilitated through the criminal justice system; where prisons only have a 20% success rate for recovery, about 60% of participants in Drug Court graduate.
At any given time, the Drug Court works with a case-load of about 60 individuals who undergo two-to-three hundred hours of SUD treatment which initially includes finding housing, receiving SUD prevention and recovery services. Partnerships with local agencies like Revive and Greater Nashua Mental Health and more than 35 sober houses make this possible. Once they are stabilized, they start to establish a routine, learn money management, attend vocational programs, and reunite with their families. After-care services include partnerships with agencies like NHWorks to ensure that felony charges do not prevent them from attaining lasting career success.
What was particularly powerful about this program was the story of one woman who graduated the program, and now supports others as a recovery coach both in professional life and by attending the Drug Court hearings. Also, the presence of public defender Pamela Jones and prosecutor Michele Battaglia spoke to the power of compromise and community during Drug Court proceedings; though they spend most of their meetings arguing, they keep it professional and truly demonstrate the role that balancing sanctions and rewards plays in delivering appropriate and fair outcomes. From a legal standpoint, the most important function of this court is helping to suspend or reduce the legal consequences for the participants who have made positive change through the court.
It was very clear by the end of this session that this style of proceedings has helped coach dozens of people into re-inventing their lives for the better. Judge Colburn encourages anyone who wants to see firsthand how this program reconnects some of the most misunderstood citizens with our community to attend drug court at the courthouse every Tuesday at 1pm. She also put in a plug for an upcoming event at the Nashua Center of the Arts, a film called The Fifty that will help provide the Drug Court with funding and awareness. Stay tuned to Chamber and Nashua Center for the Arts publications on dates and tickets!
Zach Paone, Stepping Stones