After an unsolved double murder, Concord City Council approves request to grant police ATV

Publication Date: 9/13/2022 5:47:51 PM
Modified date: 9/13/2022 5:47:21 PM

Concord City Council members voted Monday night for federal funding to purchase all-terrain vehicles to improve patrol trail systems and conservation areas within the city after an unsolved double murder in the city five months ago.

If the grant is approved, the Police Department will purchase two ATVs, a minivan and a trailer to more easily patrol the lane system of the city and conservation areas.

The order comes on the heels of the unsolved double murders in April of Steve and Wendy Reed, who were both shot while walking on the city’s Broken Ground track system. The city is seeking funds from the US Bailout Act through the US Department of Justice and New Hampshire, according to a proposal by Concord Police.

The House vote was unanimous despite the disapproval of 10th House member Zandra Rice Hawkins.

“There are a lot of elements of this proposal that I like and I see some of the rationale behind it,” said Rice Hawkins. “But there are a lot of needs in society and I’m concerned about how these dollars are being used and the priorities that we put towards them.”

The city council recommended placing the order, but he directed the conversation back to the Public Safety Board and Trail Management Committees to discuss public safety in protective settings.

Third Wing advisor Jennifer Kretowicz disagreed.

“It wasn’t long ago that someone on a trail in Wing 3 found a backpack full of hypodermic needles, and it’s scary to think of them being there on trails with kids, families, and dogs,” Kritowicz said. “This is the kind of action I can see calling our police department and I’m excited to see this move forward.”

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

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

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

She continued to question how the vehicles were used, wondering if officers would patrol protected lands as part of their regular shifts or if they were on call in cases of medical emergencies or reported criminal activity.

“This is an emergency problem, we have people in and out of the community coming in and out, and it is expected that there will be someone patrolling,” said Thomas Aspel, city manager. “We should take this opportunity where the money is available to do something like this now.”

Aspel said he expects the police department to work directly with the Concorde Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Safety Commission and share vehicles as needed.

The city does not allow motorized vehicles, such as trucks, quad bikes, or dirt bikes, to drive on its tracks. During Monday’s meeting, council members did not discuss any environmental impacts that the new police cars might have on sensitive recreation areas.

Assistant city planner Beth Fenstermacher said Tuesday that the use will be similar to the way the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game uses its off-road vehicles.

“Officers should be able to stick to paths and old logging roads, and will not intentionally enter sensitive environmental areas, unless necessary for an emergency,” she wrote in an email on Tuesday.

After the Reed murders, some hikers expressed concern about the safety of the city’s trails.

“It would be great for public safety to use that money to get ATVs on these trails,” said Department 9 board member Candice Bouchard. “There is a level that makes users a little uncomfortable and having someone else monitor those tracks sends a great message to all users.”

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