City allows interventions

Some New Haven lawbreakers will be given a second chance under a new, federally funded intervention program.

A joint meeting of the Finance and Public Safety Committees of the Board of Aldermen voted 9-1 on Thursday evening to accept a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the “anti-violence enforcement and intervention program,” individuals will be offered admittance into the intervention program and provided with social services as an alternative to arrest and possible jail time.

The program will be run by the New Haven Police Department in partnership with the local Christian Community Commission, or CCC. Although the committee approved the resolution, some aldermen questioned the appropriateness of choosing the CCC to be the partner agency.

Carolyn Bove, the grant writer for the police department, explained to the assembled aldermen that the program, which will begin as a pilot program for between 20 and 40 individuals, will target mid-level offenders, who the police feel are most likely to be able to complete the program successfully. Police will conduct routine surveillance and will only approach a suspect after having gathered sufficient evidence for an arrest.

“[The suspects] would be arrested, but instead they will be asked to join the intervention program,” Bove said.

Individuals who choose not to join after seeing the evidence against them — or who do not complete the program — will still face the possibility of subsequent arrest, she said.

While aldermen expressed support for the program as a whole, some were initially skeptical about the details. Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez and Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman both asked questions regarding the police department’s choice of partner agency.

“[The CCC] are not in good standing with the Secretary of State,” Perez told Bove during the public hearing. “We’re not supposed to do business with anyone who is not in good standing.”

To be in good standing, the organization would have to file paperwork about its budget and other information with the state.

NHPD Sergeant Petisia M. Adger, who presented the grant proposal to the board along with Bove, defended the department’s choice, saying that the delicate work of requesting that a suspected criminal come down voluntarily to the police station required an organization that already had the trust of the community. Bove also said Silverman had no reason to worry that the CCC would use its position to promote its religious beliefs; proselytizing through the program is not only unlikely, but illegal. Both the State Attorney’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office were on board with the program, she said.

“The feds encourage us to work with faith-based organizations as long as there is no recruiting,” Bove said.

According the the CCC’s Web site, the organization helps encourage “pro-active involvement” of churches in inner-city neighborhoods, whose problems are, foremost, “founded in moral blindness.”

Silverman said she has no issues with the choice of organization, which she described as having “expertise” in this line of work.

“I am a strong proponent of the separation of church and state,” she said. “I wanted to get their assurances that there is no religious component [to the intervention program].”

Perez, who along with Silverman voted to pass the resolution, said that if the city works with the CCC, it should ensure that the organization files the necessary paperwork to become in good standing.

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