Ordinance on knives offered
By Scott J. Croteau TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER- A city ordinance regulating knife possession will be presented tomorrow to the City Council.
The ordinance, developed by the Police Department, Worcester District Attorney's office and city officials, would fine people $300 for carrying knives.
Over the past two months, there has been an upward trend in stabbings and other attacks in the city during which assailants used knives. Several attacks have led to deaths.
In response to the increased use of knives, the Police Department and Worcester District Attorney's office have been criminally charging people with carrying a dangerous weapon during a breach of the peace.
Over the past few weeks, several people have been stabbed outside bars during fights.
Last month, a Becker College student was stabbed to death, one of three people killed by a knife during the past two months.
"We're trying to get the kids out of the mindset that it is OK to carry a knife," Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said.
"We're planting a seed. We've have such a problem with knives being used in crimes we have to deal with it in a harsh manner."
Any knife with a blade larger than one-and-a-half inches would be illegal to carry under the proposed ordinance.
There are exceptions, however, such as knives used for hunting, fishing or for work.
People taking a knife home after just buying it, or taking it to be fixed, could also carry it under the proposed ordinance. The ordinance would not apply to businesses involved in selling knives for trade, sport or hobby.
Another section of the ordinance states that no one can give or deliver a knife to someone younger than 18.
It does not prohibit parents, grandparents or siblings 18 and older, however, from selling, giving or delivering a knife to their children, grandchildren or siblings.
Mr. Early said knife ordinances in other communities, such as Boston, were reviewed. He said he understands that the only penalty called for by the ordinance is a fine, but noted that it is being created as a way to shift the mindset people have about carrying knives for nefarious reasons.
There is no need to carry a knife to a bar or when someone is out late at night, he said. Knives are a very personal weapon, he said.
The knife attacks constitute an "epidemic" right now in the city, the district attorney said.
Police Chief Gary J. Gemme called the ordinance another tool to "assist us with this escalation of knife crimes and knife assaults."
Along with the ordinance and the use of the criminal law, Chief Gemme has placed a Fall Impact Program - a group of 18 additional officers - out on the streets at night.
The fall program is a continuation of the summer program, in which a patrol is added late at night into the early morning. The summer was quiet this year in the city, but September and October have been violent.
The additional patrols will continue until Nov. 30.
The Police Department also has an Anti-Crime Team, officers working bar details and regular patrols watching bars and other areas where attacks have occurred.
Chief Gemme said he hopes the strategies and the change in the weather will work to decrease violent attacks.
Police officials are projecting 148 stabbings by year's end if the trend continues.
The criminal law now being applied by police and prosecutors does include a limited list of knives.
People carrying only certain types of knives - as listed in the statute - can be charged with the carrying a weapon during a breach of the peace crime.
Mr. Early said yesterday the statute needs to be re-examined because people are carrying knives with smaller blades or other dangerous items, such as box cutters.