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After shootings, enforced calm.

Byline: Elaine Thompson

LEOMINSTER - Better exterior lighting, private security details, more police patrols and new surveillance cameras are in place to help stem shootings, drug use and other inappropriate behavior at Litchfield Terrace apartments, authorities said yesterday.

The property owner, local police, and state and federal agencies that oversee subsidized housing stepped up security at Litchfield Terrace after a spate of shootings and other problems in the past few months. The complex, owned by Bay Management Corp., is just off Route 12, about two miles south of downtown Leominster.

Kristine G. Foye, spokeswoman for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides subsidies for 209 of the 216 units built in 1972, said yesterday the development has been significantly quieter since the increased security and police presence.

"The property manager and the police are working together to address the violence," Ms. Foye said. "Although it is a work in progress, HUD is pleased that the owner and property manager are taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the residents."

Ms. Foye said Bay Management has hired a private security company that provides on-site security 30 hours a week. Additional lighting is being installed on the roofs and in the parking lots.

Within a month, surveillance cameras will be installed outside the buildings and possibly in the hallways. Ms. Foye said.

In addition, the property manager is going through the court process to evict the tenants who were involved in shootings. She said one person left voluntarily and another will be taken to Housing Court.

Eric W. Gedstad, spokesman for the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the complex for HUD, said in addition to beefed up patrols, local police have been given building keys to do random walk-throughs.

He said a community meeting was held at the complex last month to discuss the importance of tenants reporting crimes to police.

Management also plans to install an anonymous drop box for tips by Monday. A questionnaire was sent to all residents earlier this month to get feedback on security, Mr. Gedstad said. He said the housing agency visited the property Thursday and Friday for its annual review.

"Negotiations are going on now to get local police to do regular details at the property. It hasn't been finalized yet. There's a conversation between the management company and the city to determine how officers will be compensated," Mr. Gedstad said.

"So far we're pleased with what's been done. We think there can be more. We will continue to work with management and HUD to see what else can be done. We're headed in the right direction."

Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella said he would like the management company to pay for an officer to be permanently assigned to Litchfield. "Things have really calmed down," the mayor said.

There have been several complaints and arrests involving illicit drug activity and shootings at Litchfield Terrace.

A drive-by shooting was reported at the complex in January in which bullets struck a car carrying a woman and her 10-month-old baby.

In February, state and local police surrounded the complex after a woman reported shots had been fired.

On March 13, somebody wearing a dark hoodie jumped out of the bushes and began to shoot at a car with two people inside. Police said Casin Davila, 21, of 101 Third St., who had been arrested on drug and assault charges in the past, was driving the car. His passenger and brother, Albert H. Lopez, 19, of 86 Pleasant St., Apt. 2, had been arrested Feb 9 in connection with the February shooting outside Litchfield. Police found several bullet holes in the car.

Another car was also hit a couple of times, and one round went into the window of a vacant apartment at 75 Terrace Drive, police said.

Mr. Davila pleaded guilty to trespassing at Litchfield Terrace Friday in Leominster District Court. A probable cause hearing for Mr. Lopez was rescheduled from Monday to May 10.

He is charged with possession of a firearm without a firearm identification card, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Mr. Lopez was also arrested in September after a state trooper pulled over his car and found two handguns inside, including a gun that Fitchburg police believe might have been connected to a shooting in Fitchburg in August. He was indicted by a Worcester Superior Court grand jury on those charges last month.

At midday yesterday, there were few people milling around outside Litchfield Terrace. It was relatively quiet, except for loud music emanating from Building 55A.

"It's a lot safer and quieter now that the police are around. Sometimes I leave for work at 5 a.m. and I see several police cars out here," said a 19-year-old woman who identified herself as S. Garcia.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Joshua Munoz, Andy Rivera, Julio Perez and Juan DeJesus play at Litchfield Terrace yesterday. (2) Leominster Police cruisers patrol the entrance of Litchfield Terrace earlier this month.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 25, 2007
Words:841
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