Aldermen call for end to gun violence

New Haven’s residents need to look out for one another, Ward 12 Alderman Gerald Antunes said in an address Monday evening on behalf of the Board of Aldermen’s Black and Hispanic Caucus.

Speaking in the wake of a spate of murders that has left 11 dead since January, Antunes’s call for residents to work together to stop the violence and to be more involved with their children drew applause from the gathered aldermen and residents. Echoing calls for community members to contact the police with information about crimes, Antunes said in the annual Black and Hispanic Caucus State of the City address that the community must take responsibility for the safety of their neighborhoods.

“Violent crime in our neighborhoods must be eliminated,” he said.

All 17 people who were murdered since October were black men, and many were ex-felons shot execution-style in the head.

Monday night Antunes said every alderman should increase block watch in their wards. He said the program Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which encourages neighbors to get to know one another better, has helped increase communication among Ward 24 residents.

In 2006, after another spate of violence struck the city, the New Haven Police Department offered gift cards to people who gave up their guns. While such programs can generate “great publicity,” Antunes said the police department’s focus should be on removing the guns and the people who sell them on the streets.

The caucus plans to meet with the newly sworn-in NHPD Chief Frank Limon, Antunes said, to let him know the Black and Hispanic Caucus’ expectations.

Youth programs were also an important part of Antunes’ recommendation for the city. He gave his support to a program that would encourage entrepreneurship among New Haven youth, calling it a good way to provide city youth with job opportunities.

But the city cannot be solely responsible for providing youth activities, parents need to step up too, Antunes said to applause from the audience.

“Parents need to get more involved,” Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James-Evans agreed.

But Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah said while Antunes’s ideas are a good start, more concrete solutions to stop the violence are needed and said the city should conduct an assessment of neighborhoods’ needs and socio-economic conditions.

Antunes also recommended that the city institute a hotel and bar tax. When Ward 6 Alderwoman Dolores Colón and Ward 2 Alderwoman Gina Calder took vacations to Phoenix, Ariz., and Cancún, Mexico, they had to pay lodging taxes; visitors to New Haven should have to pay those taxes too, Antunes said.

Three aldermen interviewed after the address said they like Antunes’s ideas.

About an hour after Antunes wrapped up his speech, the board’s meeting appeared to be near an end when Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson demanded that the board consider establishing a charter revision commission, an issue it had passed over earlier in the evening.

Almost immediately Goldson said the proposal should be killed because the members of the proposed commission and the topics they would discuss had not been chosen correctly. A nearly hour-long discussion followed during which Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11 moved to send the item back to committee and failed. The item was ultimately voted down 20 to 6.

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