March 9th, 2010 | City, News

Illinois chief named New Haven’s top cop

Frank Limon, pictured at Tuesday's announcement at City Hall, comes to New Haven from River Forest, Ill., a town of 12,000.
Frank Limon, pictured at Tuesday's announcement at City Hall, comes to New Haven from River Forest, Ill., a town of 12,000. Photo by Daniel Carvalho.

Updated: March 10, 4:39 p.m. Frank Limon, a Chicago veteran and the current police chief of River Forest, Ill., will be the new chief of the New Haven Police Department, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced Tuesday.

Limon takes over a department in transition, having recently lost four of its top five officials. While the city marked its safest year on record in 2009 (with a 10 percent drop in crime from the year before), it also faces a recent spate of high-profile murders, rising gang violence and an increasingly rowdy club scene.

Limon, who speaks fluent Spanish, said he would collaborate with NHPD officers, neighborhood leaders and Yale police to reduce gun violence and work with the community.

“I am very committed to the citizens of New Haven and will work with the men and women in the department to make this city a safer environment for our children,” he said.

As police chief, Limon will try to lower what DeStefano calls an “unacceptable” level of gun violence. The mayor said nearly all gun violence is linked to narcotics — something Limon worked to eliminate in Chicago.

“I was particularly attracted to his record of success in Chicago and his firm belief in the importance of partnering with the community to reduce crime and make our neighborhoods safer,” DeStefano said.

Limon will also aim to increase the strength of the Investigative Services Division — a goal that has been pushed for by DeStefano. Limon said he is looking at assistant chief candidates that have experience in investigative services and would help to improve the program.

Four assistant chiefs served under Limon’s predecessor, James Lewis, but City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said Limon has not yet chosen how many assistant chiefs to have. She said the decision will not be made in the next few days.

Lewis, who held the top cop job for 20 months before stepping down last month, helped to select Limon after weeks of vetting about 50 candidates and whittling them down to three finalists.

Lewis said in a recent interview that his successor should continue his aggressive community policing strategies that seek to eliminate sources of major crime in high-risk neighborhoods. Some community leaders criticized Lewis for straying too far from their view of community policing, in which police patrol the streets and build cordial relationships with the community.

Ward 13 Alderman Alex Rhodeen, chair of the public safety committee, said Limon came with strong recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-profit consulting agency that specializes in identifying qualified police administrators. But Rhodeen added that results would ultimately determine Limon’s success.

“The results are the only thing that matters,” Rhodeen said. “At the end of the day what people really want is someone who is successful.”

At the press conference, Limon said the police department and community should work together to make the city safer. He added that he looks forward to meeting local residents and working with New Haven schools.

In River Forest, a town of 12,000, Limon reduced crime by putting more cops on the street while focusing on budget cuts elsewhere, managing to reduce crime and costs at the same time. He spent most of his 30-year career in the Chicago Police Department, at the end supervising more than 600 people as head of the anti-gang division.

Limon will be sworn in April 5, and his term will run through February 2014.