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Counter Criminal Continuum (C3) Policing in Springfield, Massachusetts:A Collaborative Effort between City and State Police to Reduce Gang Violence

By Lieutenant Colonel Bradley G. Hibbard, Deputy Superintendent (Retired), Massachusetts State Police; with John Barbieri, Deputy Chief, Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Department; Michael Domnarski, Lieutenant, Commanding Officer, Massachusetts State Police Special Project Team; and Michael Cutone, Trooper, Massachusetts State Police

he city of Springfield, Massachusetts, with a population of 153,060,1 is ranked the 12th most dangerous city in America. 2 The North End section of Springfield has seen crime and gang violence increase dramatically over the past decade. Contributing factors included a reduction of police officers caused by economic concerns and in particular the agency’s departure from the community policing model that had existed prior to budgetary reductions in personnel. Property-owning stakeholders opted out of spending for private security and grew accustomed to police responding to every criminal-related issue in their respective areas. Neighborhood residents in the area of concern were primarily low-income renters with no long-term commitment to the neighborhood and a concern of retribution for contacting the police. Traditional law enforcement responses and varied nontraditional methods were employed to encourage stakeholder participation. Despite increased efforts, resident interaction remained minimal.

During the summer of 2009, violence peaked in the North End section. Members of the Los Boricuas gang emigrated from Puerto Rico with the goal of controlling the local drug trade.3 The area became plagued with gang-related open-air drug activity and sporadic violence. The gangs were well organized and worked effectively to limit police focus on their activities. The quality of life for North End residents decreased to the degree that many were afraid to leave their homes and venture onto the streets.

A local state representative was prompted by a North End property management representative to hold a meeting with local law enforcement to demand increased police presence. At this meeting, it was demonstrated that call volume for the area was heavy but that the majority of calls for service were not directly related to the gang activities. Instead, the calls concerned issues that had previously been handled by property management and private security. Statistics showing increased police presence were presented, but it was apparent that the problem was due to an inability to provide 24-hour, 7-days-a-week coverage for any particular neighborhood and a lack of independently reported criminal activity that would result in an enhanced police response.

Traditional police responses, investigation, enhanced sustained presence, and the use of informants resolved the issue with Los Boricuas gang. Arrests were made and the gang was dispersed, but it was apparent that the underlying causes regarding neighborhood fear or apathy regarding neighborhood conditions still had not been addressed. Citizens would not call to report drug sales, gang activity, or even armed persons in their neighborhoods. Calls to 9-1-1 were made only when there was an actual shooting.

Initiative from Iraq to Springfield

In October 2009, Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Cutone conducted a series of dismounted patrols, visiting local retail establishments in an attempt to obtain the “ground truth.” Not only did these contacts begin the process of building trust between the state police and the community, but they also revealed that gang members were conducting their illegal activities with what appeared to be complete freedom of maneuver. As the result of discussions with local business owners and follow-up conversations with Springfield police officers, Trooper Cutone and several other troopers from the Springfield barracks began working cooperatively with the Springfield Police Department in an effort to develop a strategy aimed at reclaiming the North End neighborhood for its residents.

Trooper Cutone had recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq where he and Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas Sarrouf had played essential roles in a special operations mission in the Avghani region of Iraq. Sarrouf served as captain and team commander of Special Forces ODA 944 while Cutone was a master sergeant and the team’s senior noncommissioned officer. Avghani was of particular interest to U.S. commanders as it was seen as a choke point for insurgent travel to and from the Syrian border and as a safe haven for insurgent rest and resupply. Before the arrival of Cutone’s team, al Qaeda–affiliated terrorists had destroyed the town’s police headquarters, leaving the community and its governing structure in shambles. Combining his 20 years of special forces experience with his law enforcement background, Cutone worked with Sarrouf and their team to restore the confidence and capability of the local Iraqi infantry and police. Trooper Cutone’s team began by teaching basic skills and progressing toward the practical application of those skills in rebuilding the local ability to defend the community and maintain order.

The resulting cooperation between local infantry and police succeeded in stabilizing the town and its environs. Most important, in the integration of local police forces, Sarrouf and Cutone succeeded in defining the insurgency in a new way: not as a military problem, but as a law enforcement problem. . . . ODA 944’s story is now seen as a benchmark special forces foreign internal defense mission; it is reviewed within the special forces and conventional army communities as the Avghani model . . . and helped pave the way for subsequent in-country successes.4

In the fall of 2009, Cutone, with the support of his commanders, met with Springfield Police Department Deputy Chief John Barbieri to discuss how the Avghani Counterinsurgency Operations (COIN) model could be adapted to law enforcement operations and integrated into an overall strategy to address the crime problem in the North End. After weeks of planning, a shooting at Washburn and Orchard Street in late October5 served as the catalyst to begin coordinated law enforcement efforts and the development of the Counter Criminal Continuum (C³) Policing methodology. Working with the North End Safe Neighborhood Initiative, a loosely knit group of North End residents, partnerships were established with a local state representative, the North End Citizens’ Council, and local business representatives. Through the adaptation and application of the military counterinsurgency model, Cutone’s efforts have progressed to the point that his team has mobilized more than 60 stakeholder groups. Representatives of these groups meet every Thursday in the North End Community Center.

Measurable Success

Drawing upon the principles of community-oriented and intelligence-led policing, integrated with the military counterinsurgency model and lessons learned at Avghani, law enforcement in Springfield has made great inroads over the past year with limited resources. The agency has

  • established weekly community meetings at Edgewater Apartments;
  • developed the C³ Policing Initiative and mission statement;6
  • recruited faith-based groups as active participants;
  • conducted several neighborhood walks to establish and maintain contact with residents of the North End region;
  • distributed materials, printed in both English and Spanish, with information on available social and educational programs to assist residents and the community;
  • provided public service announcements on a local Spanishspeaking radio station;
  • promoted and expanded the Text-A-Tip program;
  • established a Street Leader program whereby vetted community residents report criminal or gang-related activity to law enforcement;
  • partnered with the Springfield Department of Public Works and local schools to clean blighted areas and erect signage announcing the anticrime initiative;
  • partnered with local schools to provide information discouraging gang involvement to students;
  • established rapport with local youth community;
  • through cooperative efforts with area social support agencies such as the YMCA and the Massachusetts Career Development Institute, provided counseling, mentoring, education, and training opportunities to youths formerly involved with gang activity;
  • established a program to remove gang graffiti markings from the North End community;
  • conducted high-profile law enforcement sweeps targeting those involved in illegal narcotics, gang, and weapons violations;
  • collected significant information and intelligence relating to criminal activity in the community;
  • developed and continue to publish weekly intelligence summary reports for distribution to Springfield police and state police officers and specialized support units; and
  • established communication between support agencies and units.

Feedback from North End residents and business leaders has been positive, and trust continues to build between the community and law enforcement. Further evidence that their efforts are succeeding is demonstrated through the following incident report table, which compares nondomestic violence incidents at the Lowell Street (Springfield) Project in 2009 and in 2010.7

Incident20092010Change Percentage
Aggravated Assault42-50
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon67+17
Destruction of Property6030-50
Simple Assault1417+21
Stolen Motor Vehicle179-47
Threat to Commit Crime3018-40
Weapons Violation124-66

Compare and Contrast: Community-Oriented Policing and C3

In the fall of 2009, Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Cutone, with the support of his commanders, met with Springfield Police Department Deputy Chief John Barbieri to discuss how the Avghani Counterinsurgency Operations (COIN) model could be adapted to law enforcement operations and integrated into an overall strategy to address the crime problem in the North End.
Law enforcement officials involved in C³ indicate that while there are both similarities and differences between the community-oriented policing and the counterinsurgency models, the integrated application of their underlying principles can be and has been very effective in combating gang violence. C³ policing is designed to complement the methodologies of community-oriented and intelligence-led policing and is most effective in addressing gang and criminal activity in specific geographical areas of high crime activity. C³ is viewed as the “sweet spot” whereby community policing, intelligence-led policing, and COIN intersect.

The similarities and differences can be seen in the end states of the community-oriented and counterinsurgency models, which are defined by the project team as follows:

End State of Community Policing. According to the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Program, “Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.”8 Community policing must share strategies and the skills, the expertise, and the resources of other community and government agencies to be effective and resolve mutual problems. Fundamental causes and conditions that create community problems are many and complex; often, local problems can be solved only through cooperation among our city departments and other agencies.

End State of C³ Policing. C³ policing is focused on denying, disrupting, and degrading the operational capabilities of gangs and criminal activity associated to or linked with gangs, and on undermining the capability of gangs to operate freely and openly within the community. The goal of C³ policing, as adapted from Counterinsurgency, 9 is to provide effective governance through local government agencies to the community and a safe and secure environment through the rule of law. This includes providing for the community’s populace, eliminating the root causes of the gangs (the insurgency) and preventing those root causes from returning. Counterinsurgent operations can successfully defeat gang activity, achieve unity of effort along multiple lines of effort, isolate gang members from the rest of the community, and increase the legitimacy of the local government.

As a result of the initiative’s initial success, the Springfield Police Department and Massachusetts State Police endorsed the C³ policing concept toward addressing criminal and gang activity in the North End. In October 2010, Lieutenant Michael Domnarski, commanding officer of the Massachusetts State Police Special Project Team, was assigned to assist the initiative’s members with the continued development and implementation of C³. Cutone and Massachusetts State Trooper Keith Armstrong were assigned to work exclusively on the initiative and provide support to Springfield Police Department operations in the area. The troopers operate out of the Springfield police barracks and receive additional support from troopers assigned to the barracks. The collaborative effort between these troopers and the Springfield Police Department has strengthened the long-standing relationship between both departments.

Editor’s note: In addition to relating to the September Police Chief magazine theme of “9/11, 10 Years Later,” this article’s focus will be the subject of a workshop at IACP 2011 in Chicago, Illinois, October 22–26. For information about the conference, visit
The project team is seeking to further validate the results of its efforts. Its members are currently collaborating with the Naval Postgraduate School in California to obtain assistance with the collection and analysis of crime data and their integration into the C³ model. They have met with representatives of the Salinas, California, Police Department, who are experiencing problems similar to those in the North End of Springfield, and they continue to share their experiences and lessons learned with other law enforcement agencies.

The project team will provide further information on C³ Policing and the Springfield Initiative at the annual IACP conference in Chicago: “Reducing Gang Violence in Springfield, Massachusetts: Counter Criminal Continuum (C³) Policing: Community Policing Enhanced by Lessons Learned from Department of Defense Strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan.” ■


1American Fact Finder, “Population and Housing Occupancy Status: 2010-State-County Subdivision,” 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File, U.S.Census Bureau, (accessed July 1, 2011).
2Leah Goldman, “The 25 Most Dangerous Cities in America,” Business Insider, May 23, 2011, (accessed July 1, 2011).
3Los Boricuas gang members are from a remote mountainous area of Puerto Rico and are accustomed to operating with impudence because of difficulties local police have with mounting police operations in the gang’s difficult native terrain.
4Stanley T. Grip Jr., “The Avghani Model,” Army Magazine 58, no. 5 (May 2008): 54, (accessed July 1, 2011).
5The shooting occurred just hours after local law enforcement announced a major arrest for gun trafficking and the seizure of 15 illegal guns. See Patrick Johnson, “2 Men Shot in Area of Orchard and Washburn Streets in Springfield,”, October 21, 2009, (accessed July 20, 2011).
6Mission Statement: Counter Criminal Continuum (C³) Policing facilitates unity of effort and criminal intelligence gathering by, with and through interagency, community, and private enterprise cooperation in order to detect, disrupt, and dismantle criminal activity in the North End of Springfield, Massachusetts.
7Internal document from the Springfield Police Department Records Bureau.
8Community Policing Defined, U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, April 3, 2009, (accessed July 20, 2011).
9Counterinsurgency, FM 3-24, MCWP 3-33.5, U.S. Department of the Army, December 2006.

Please cite as:

Bradley G. Hibbard, John Barbieri, Michael Domnarski, and Michael Cutone, "Counter Criminal Continuum (C3) Policing in Springfield, Massachusetts: A Collaborative Effort between City and State Police to Reduce Gang Violence," The Police Chief 78 (September 2011): 30–36.

Click to view the digital edition.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 9, September 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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