BELCHERTOWN – Police announced on Tuesday they will increase patrols of the former Belchertown State School property and anyone found there without permission will be arrested for trespassing.
The move, according to Police Chief Christopher Pronovost, is in response to several recent incidents of vandalism and the setting of fires inside buildings on the property.
The property had from the 1920s through 1992 had been used as a state mental asylum. Its original name was the Belchertown State School for the Feebleminded.
Since 1992, it has been vacant. The property has long been a fascination for urban explorers, amateur archeologists and photographers.
In a little more than the past year, there have been two significant fires that started inside empty and locked buildings on the site. Each was considered arson.
Pronovost said securing the property was the subject of a meeting with Fire Chief Ted Bock and members of the Belchertown Economic Development Corporation. The corporation is considered the official owners of the property and is looking to develop the property.
As a result of that meeting, he has decided to increase patrols of the 830-acre property.
Anyone found on the property without permission will be arrested and charged with trespassing, he said.
Anyone found inside or attempting to enter any of the buildings will be arrested and charged with breaking and entering, as well as any other criminal statutes that apply, he said. And any vehicles found on the property will be towed, he said.
He also said police intent to make use of technology including cameras to identify people on the property without permission.
“We are hopeful that by educating the public and providing this warning, people will think twice before entering onto any of the grounds and risk being injured or subject to arrest,” Pronovost said in a statement.