Following unsolved double murder, Concord City Council approves police ATV grant request

  • The Marsh Loop of the Broken Ground Trails in East Concord on April 28, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor Staff
Published: 9/13/2022 5:47:51 PM
Modified: 9/13/2022 5:47:21 PM

Concord City Councilors voted Monday night to seek federal funding to purchase all-terrain vehicles to better patrol trail systems and conservation areas within the city following an unsolved double murder in the city five months ago.

If the grant is approved, the police department will purchase two ATV’s, a pick-up truck and a trailer to more easily patrol the city’s trail system and conservation areas.

The request follows the unsolved double homicide in April of Steve and Wendy Reid, who were shot while walking on the city’s Broken Ground trail system. The city is seeking American Rescue Plan Act funds through the U.S. and New Hampshire Department of Justice, according to a proposal submitted by Concord Police.

The council’s vote was unanimous despite pushback from Ward 10 Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins.

“There are a lot of elements of this proposal that I like and I see some justification and reasoning behind it,” Rice Hawkins said. “But there are a lot of needs in the community and I am concerned how we will use those dollars and what priorities we’re putting them toward.”

She recommended the city council put in the application but direct the conversation back to the Public Safety Board and trail management committees to discuss public safety in conservation spaces.

Ward 3 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic disagreed.

“It wasn’t that long ago since a person on a trail in Ward 3 found a backpack full of hypodermic needles and it’s scary to think they’re out there on the trails with children, families and dogs,” Kretovic said. “This is the type of action I could see calling our police department and I’m excited to see this move forward.”

Since the pandemic, the city has seen an increase in the use of the 84-miles of hiking and walking trails throughout Concord. With the increase, police said they have seen an “up-tick in violent criminal activity on the trails.”

Hawkins disagreed. She said she asked police on Monday to provide data on violent crimes dating back to 2019 but they did not respond to her request. She was skeptical it would show an increase in violent crimes and argued the funding could be used elsewhere.

“There are so many issues arising from COVID and I think about priorities and I envision a role like this, which is a substantial investment,” Hawkins said. “It might be worth it, but I think we have time time to have a conversation.”

She continued to question how the vehicles will be used, asking if officers will patrol the conservation lands as part of their regular shifts or if they will be on-call for medical emergencies or reported criminal activity.

“This is an emergent issue, we have people from within and outside of the community coming in and out and it’s the expectation of the community to have someone patrolling that,” said City Manager Thomas Aspell. “We should take this opportunity where the funds are available to do something like this now.”

Aspell said he expects the police department will work directly with the Concord Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Safety Committee and share the vehicles as needed.

The city does not allow motorized vehicles, like trucks, ATV’s or dirt bikes, on its trails. Councilors did not discuss during Monday’s meeting any environmental impacts the new police vehicles would have on sensitive recreation areas.

Assistant City Planner Beth Fenstermacher said on Tuesday the use will be similar to the way the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department uses its off-road vehicles.

“Officers should be able to stick to trails and old loggingroads, and will not intentionally be entering sensitive environmental areas, unless required for an emergency,” she wrote in an email on Tuesday.

Following the Reid murders, some hikers expressed worry over the safety of the city’s trails.

“It would be great for public safety to use these funds to get all-terrain vehicles on these trails,” said Ward 9 Councilor Candace Bouchard. “There is a level with users being a bit uncomfortable and having someone else with eyes on those trails sends a great message to all users.”

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