On the night of Sept. 4, Newhallville’s crime problems literally hit home for Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango. Four gunshots hit his house, with one of them piercing the wall.
The incident was one of 15 reported firearm discharges in Newhallville — a New Haven neighborhood about a mile north of downtown — from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8, up from a usual 10 discharges per three-week period, according to New Haven Police Department statistics. Those statistics, along with complaints from local residents, prompted Blango to call a community meeting at the Newhallville police substation Thursday night. Residents said they were encouraged by the police’s willingness to address the surge in crime but were left with few concrete solutions.
With over 20 residents in attendance, NHPD and local government officials spoke and listened to suggestions from their audience on how the district might attempt to curb the rise in crime.
“I think we need to come together as a community and say we’re not going to tolerate it no more,” Blango said in his opening remarks.
And at last night’s meeting, that’s precisely what happened. A half-dozen local officials, including Blango and Police Chief Francisco Ortiz, made clear their concern about the crime rates. Blango solicited advice from the residents in attendance, and listened to many who complained that until now, the police have ignored their calls. Ortiz said that his department knows there’s a problem in Newhallville, but that it needs the help of local residents to combat crime.
“We recognize that there’s been a real surge in gunshots in this area,” he said. “The department is to be held accountable; we are your neighbors. … But we need your help.”
But many of those in attendance were left with just the same worries they had been facing for weeks, or even years — worries about drug dealing outside their homes, guns being fired late at night, teenagers breaking car windows for fun.
Elvis Carranza, 36, for example, who moved from his East Haven home to Newhallville last year, thinks one solution might be simple: The police should install more lights on the streets. But even with that change, he said, he would still worry about crime in his neighborhood and especially about the safety of his 7- and 12-year-old children.
“I strictly enforce that they walk no further than from the car to the house,” he said. “I know this neighborhood’s not safe. … I’m just crossing my fingers that it will get better.”
Newhallville resident Bishop Guion said he worried police were targeting teenagers instead of trying to find the people who supply them with arms and drugs.
Before the city can make progress in fighting crime, he said, it needs to revive social programs for single parents and at-risk youth.
“It’s great for us to meet and talk, but at some point we need to get out into these communities,” Guion said.
Multiple residents expressed frustration that the city had failed to institute a curfew, which had been under discussion last year before being deemed impractical.
Lilac Street resident Bernice Small, 59, who has raised her 17-year-old grandson since he was born, fought back tears as she spoke of her frustration with parents who allow their children to cause the very problems plaguing her neighborhood.
“The parents have to step up to the bat,” she said. “Kids are going to do what they want to do until we stand up and say ‘no more.’ … If our kids weren’t doing what they were doing, the police wouldn’t have to be in this area.”