‘Remember This Day for the Rest of Your Life’
In a warmup exercise called “rock, tree and bridge” Alvirne High School senior Molly Hein, a 5-foot-9 forward, works to go under the bridge formed by seven-year-old Hanna Kramer, a second-grader at Hudson Hills Garrison School.
Karen Bonney, head girls basketball coach at Alvirne High School, greeted 36 second-graders at the Steckweicz Gym on Saturday, with the phrase “Remember this day for the rest of your Life.” Assisting her were most of the Varsity and many of the Junior Varsity Girls Basketball team members in a morning of basketball fun and skill building. This instructional league, run by Ed Peterson for more than 20 years, generally meets at the Hudson Community Center, but was displaced due to the “Barbara Hamilton” Hudson Recreation travel basketball tournament.
Basketballs were bounced not dribbled and shots were taken during the 1 1/2-hour program. It appeared — as the girls in colored T-shirts stared at their 10 or so years older coaches in team sweats and uniforms demonstrate that the ball really can go into the orange hoop 10 feet from the floor — that it was truly a day to remember.
Second-graders dribble under the watchful eyes of Alvirne High School basketball players.
Chief explains “GROWING PAINS” with Litchfield Budgets and Spending
by Len Lathrop
Following our story about Litchfield Police Chief Joe O’Brion, “Police Chief Spent Nearly $80,00, Without Board of Selectmen Approval,” by Lauren Danzi on spending at the end of Litchfield’s fiscal year in the Hudson~Litchfield News on January 11, 2008, receiving a phone call Monday morning from the Chief, he expressed concerns about the story and we agreed to meet at 1 p.m. that day at the Litchfield Police Department.
After speaking with the dispatcher, she directed me into the Chief’s office. Having never been into the station before, it stuck me as a somewhat new facility; it screamed of overcrowding but that is another story on another day.
On the Chief’s desk just slightly off center was a stack of, my guess, 300 sheets of paper - the Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI) report that was just sent to the officials involved for their review and comment. The report is scheduled to be released to the public on January 29. On the other side of the desk was a bound computer printout, the budget summary. Chief O’Brion using the financial printout explained that his budget works out to be $83,000 per month. The printout is generated monthly and has to be manually updated to keep track of all the purchase orders that he generates to run the police department between printouts.
Stopping there, the Chief was asked, “Isn’t the problem not as much about the amount of money and how the purchase order were written to avoid the Litchfield town required bid process?” We left the discussion about the amount of $79,442 from our January 11 story that had come from the budget committee minutes on the table and returned our focus to the process of how the money was spent. On December 18, the excess according to the Chief, was reported to him as $108,950 and the Selectmen liaison to the Police Department, George Lambert, directed him to spend the excess. Under what is referred to as SB2, the legislation that the Town of Litchfield operates under, as do many other towns, all departments have bottom-line spending ability, that is they can change which budget line item the money comes from to spend it in a different direction, as long as the department head’s spending doesn’t exceed that gross appropriation for that department and follows the guideline for moving line-item expenses as established by either the voters or the selectmen.
Chief O’Brion explained that the three large purchases were for items that will be recommended by Municipal Resources Inc. when the report is released later this month. During the review process with MRI many conversations were had, and while he couldn’t state that MRI approved the purchases, both he and his liaisons with MRI were involved with discussions where both the video cameras for the cruisers and the new surveillance system for the police station were reviewed. O’Brion stated that both things are important to the town of Litchfield, the protection of the officers, and the taxpayer.
He went on the point out, while Litchfield is growing the towns and cities that are surrounding the town also are growing, and they — Manchester, Hudson, Londonderry and Nashua — put traffic and criminal problems into the town. Questioned as to why each cruiser was a separate purchase order between $5,204 and $4,702 for the camera for that car, it was explained that this was the standard procedure, that each cruiser had its own purchase order from the day it was purchased, providing a record of expenses for each car. While it was argued that it seemed as an effort to avoid the bidding process, the Chief stated that Kustom Signals Inc. is the vendor on the State of New Hampshire Bid List. Which allows a community not to have sought other bidders; the State had done the work for the Town. He also said the vendor for the security system for the station was a State Qualified Bid List Vendor.
While it wasn’t the focus of our meeting it was hard not to talk about how important both the camera in the cruiser and a recordable video system covering the station was important for both the officers on duty and the citizens that the Litchfield people and the police department might deal with.
The third major purchase of this fiscal year was the software to operate the Project 54 in cruiser computers that the town had received a $35,000 grant for the hardware, already installed in each police cruiser. This purchase was from Information Management Corporation (IMC) of North Grafton, Massachusetts, also the State of New Hampshire vendor and the original vendor involved with the Project 54 program.
As we talked the Chief explained that in the prior fiscal year, which ended in December 2006, that the department under his direction “returned to the general fund” $37,405 and the year before $34,400, funds that were budgeted and not spend. And that he was directed to spend down to the bottom line.
After a tour of the station at the end of our meeting, I agreed with the Chief to report on our meeting. The above is my report of our conversions.
Internet Safety and Inhalants 101
by Maureen Gillum
Hudson Police Chief Richard Gendron observes Detective Mike Niven posing as a 14-year-old girl in an online chat room.
The Hudson Memorial School administration and PTO co-sponsored the Hudson Police Department’s fourth annual Community Safety Night on January 16. Featured guest speakers included state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Hudson Police Chief Richard Gendron. The free two-hour seminar open to all community adults drew nearly 100, primarily Hudson K - 12 parents.
Attendees agreed the workshop, which focused on Internet safety and inhalants, was “informative,” “shocking,” and “invaluable.” It was especially pertinent given the police department’s arrest of three men last week (including a Hudson Memorial School IT specialist Anthony Christopher Blondin, 21, of Salem,) as part of its continuing battle against online sexual predators of children (see related article, HPD’s latest Internet Sex Sting).
“The surprising arrest of an HMS staff member just after this seminar, highlights on-line predators can be anywhere and anyone,” commented Julie Smith, HMS PTO president. “Even in a safety-conscious school like Hudson Memorial and under Hudson police’s vigilance, we are all at risk. All parents need to know, use and keep up with evolving Internet safety measures,” Smith said.
Lori Robicheau, assistant principal and district safety coordinator, introduced the seminar as “Internet safety and substance abuse are critical topics to the safety of our children, especially at these most vulnerable ages.” She also announced that policies regarding Internet safety and online bullying are in districtwide development.
“The Internet is a great tool, but it is also has many dangers, especially for children,” Gendron said. “Kids have plenty of friends, but they only have one set of parents,” he said. “They need to be parents to set guidelines and enforce rules” (online time limits, approved Web sites, who and what they can connect about). “If you go away with one thing tonight, make sure to get PCs out in the open (living room, kitchen) and keep them out of kid’s bedrooms or basements,” the chief said.
Calling the Internet a “gateway into homes,” and the “wild, wild, west,” Ayotte reinforced Gendron’s message and gave kudos to the Hillsborough Cyberspace Task Force, which she credited to him. She addressed online teen bullying and warned of the permanence of online content. Profiles, photos and videos posted online today “may remain in cyberspace forever,” cautioned Ayotte. “Prospective employers and colleges are also increasingly searching these sites to screen applicants,” she said. She also outlined the revamping of New Hampshire’s Sexual Predators Act, which calls for stiffer penalties and more stringent registration policies.
While Ayotte acknowledged legislation, technology, public education and law enforcement are making strides against online predators, she warned that “none of it is foolproof.” “Parents, and their critical connection with their kids, remain our best frontline defense,” she said. To help families, Ayotte distributed her “Internet Safety Guide” and cited www.connectwithyourkids.org.
Police Sergeant Chuck Dyac and Detective Mike Niven then reviewed statistics, technology tips, guidelines and shocked the crowd with live demonstrations. Most sobering: one in five kids (10 to 17 years of age), are sexually solicited online every year. Most incidents (70 percent) occur to children using a PC at home; only four percent at school. While almost two-thirds of online violations occur in chat rooms; 24 percent happen in instant messaging. Only 25 percent of youth sexually solicited told a parent; less than 10 percent were reported to authorities. Offenders are 99 percent male and 86 percent are older than 25.
With 100 million-plus users, social network sites (MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube, and Xanga) remain the rage. “If you allow MySpace, make sure you set all settings to ‘private,’ limit all contact information, check for multiple accounts, and create your own MySpace account to help monitor your child’s activities,” Dyac advised. Watch Web-enabled devices, like cell phones, and holster them at night to prevent 2 a.m. texting and Internet access.
Resource Officer Bill Emmons warned that “‘dusting’ can kill a child in 15 seconds, even in its first inhalant abuse."
The police department also advised getting rid of free peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs, like LimeWire, BearShare and Kazaa, which children often use to download music and videos. “These are extremely dangerous as it also opens the doors to unwanted file sharing, identity theft and Trojan viruses,” Niven warned. “It’s better to pay the 88 cents to legally download a song,” he said.
The most alarming demonstration was when detectives, careful never to bait, posed as a 14-year-old girl in a few live chat rooms. Within minutes adult male predators went after the decoy with raunchy sexual solicitations on the big screen. He also showed how savvy stalkers piece together target profiles (full name, age, interests, school, address, phone, e-mail, and house directions) by what teens unwittingly provide and free search sites like Zaba in 20 minutes or less. “Unfortunately, it happens all the time, even in Hudson,” Niven said.
Key Internet safety measures:
- Keep PCs in the open - not in kid’s bedrooms
- Know your children’s online activities, contacts and content
- Develop a signed and posted family contract with clear rules (time limits, approved usage)
- Visit: www.safekids.com, www.safeteens.com and www.netsmartz.org
- Use privacy settings and never give out contact information online
- Consider child-safe Web sites; ISP monitors, PC surveillance or filtering software
- www.spectorsoft, iambigbrother, netnanny, eblaster, or safeeyes
- Stay aware and snoop often. Help delete online predators
- Review browser history, temp files, chat logs
- www.cybertipline.com or call 800-843-5678
- Call Hudson Police Department at 886-6011 - Sergeant Chuck Dyac or Detective Mike Niven
Student Resource Officer Bill Emmons highlighted the use and dangers of inhalants. Nearly one out of four sixth- to eighth-graders in the U.S. has tried dangerous inhalants at least once. “Kids (primarily grades three to 10) use more than 1,400 common household products in ‘huffing, sniffing, dusting and bagging’ vapors to get a brief high,” Emmons said. “The real dangers are some products, like Dust-Off, can kill a child in less than 15 seconds,” he said, “and nearly 40 percent of all inhalant-abuse deaths (mostly sudden cardiac arrests) occur to first time-users.” Emmons urged parents to visit www.inhalantabusetraining.org.
Overall, the fourth forum was very well received. “While we always hope to attract more, we’re pleased with our largest community turn out yet,” said Smith.
“We’re so fortunate and thankful for our student resource officers, the Hudson Police, and the New Hampshire attorney general who offer their active support on key teen issues,” Robicheau said.
Gendron closed with this admonition: “Children are our most valuable resource and we all need to protect them.”
Online Sting Nets Hudson School District Employee
by Lynne Ober
The Hudson Police Department, under the guidance of Police Chief Dick Gendron, has a zero tolerance policy for any crimes against youngsters, especially crimes involving sexual predators. As a result of this policy, the department has been actively pursuing Internet sex predators for several years and has been a member of the Southern Hillsborough County CyberSafe Task Force, which not only assisted in the recent arrests, but has been responsible for over 30 arrests since its inception. The most recent arrest netted a Hudson School District employee.
The most recent arrests of two men, Anthony C. Blondin, 21, of Salem, N.H., and Anthony Van Dyck, 32, of Burlington, Massachusetts, hit very close to home as Blondin is the Hudson Memorial IT specialist. Both men were allegedly looking for sex with underage girls. The men made contact via the Internet, but actually were “chatting” with police detectives and not 16-year-old girls. The men made dates with the “girls” and when they showed up for the dates were arrested.
According to Superintendent Randy Bell, Blondin supported staff and machinery. “He had no direct responsibilities in the school with students and, in fact, would have had little to no contact with students. He supported the staff. He took care of the equipment.”
Blondin, upon his arrest, was immediately suspended with pay from the school district. “The cooperation that we have received from the police has been wonderful,” said Bell, who noted that, in turn, the school district was also cooperating with police. “We immediately turned over all of Blondin’s computing materials to the police. We are working with them as they investigate the incident further. It is too soon to say what further actions the district will take, but I can tell you that we will take appropriate action.”
Hudson Police Department Sergeant Charles Dyac said, “A Hudson Detective was solicited by an adult male who believed he was communicating [over the Internet] with a juvenile under the age of 16 for the purposes of sexual relations. On January 18, the male subject traveled to the Town of Hudson where he was planning on meeting the juvenile. Members of the Criminal Investigation Division and Patrol Division were present when he arrived and arrested him.” Dyac reported that “Blondin was placed under arrest for committing the offense of Certain Uses of Computer Services Prohibited (class B felony) as defined in RSA 649-B:4.”
"The Hudson police, from Chief (Richard) Gendron all the way down, has a zero tolerance for this," said Lt. Bill Avery. "The Chief has taken a leadership role in protecting children across the southern part of the state. Our goal is to protect the children of this community and the children of other communities. Frankly we want these people off the street and away from our children."
Bell said that Blondin had gone through a complete background investigation prior to his hire. “All of our employees go through a background check and are fingerprinted before we hire him. There was no hint of any problem when we hired him and no hint of any difficulty during his hours on the job.”
The task force, formed in 2006 to catch predators prowling for underage sex, has had continued success. “It’s just amazing to me that people do this,” said Bell. “The Hudson Police work very hard at keeping our citizens safe and even when we have a situation like this, we appreciate the work and their efforts. They are always professional.”
Van-Dyck and Blondin were the second and third arrests Hudson police this week as part of the ongoing online operation. Altogether police made three felony arrests.
Blondin’s expect arraignment date is February 7.
On Monday, January 21, Avery said that detectives have wrapped up their investigation and are preparing their case for court.
“Here’s a young man who will forever be labeled a sexual predator because of his recent behavior,” said Bell. “The whole school district is in shock and we appreciate the exemplary efforts of the Hudson Police Department and the courtesy they showed us during these difficult times.”