In an effort renew its focus on crime reduction, the New Haven Police Department is dropping its “Committed to Community Policing” motto in favor of a new slogan, “Dedicated to Protecting our Community” — and adding a new logo, too.
That new NHPD squad cars will carry the new slogan was just one of several announcements made by NHPD Chief James Lewis at a news conference Thursday morning. In November 2007, the Police Executive Research Forum issued 60 recommendations for the NHPD. The first two recommendations were to develop a new vision for the NHPD and a new citywide crime strategy. Yesterday morning, the NHPD announced its new mission statement and a new five-point crime fighting strategy.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who accompanied Lewis, said the problems the police face in 2009 are not the same problems they faced in 1999 or 1989, and, as a result, police response should be different.
Although the words are no longer part of the slogan, community policing — which, in principle, means officers forming relationships with the public to help deter crime — is not going away. Community policing happens every day, DeStefano said. Lewis told the News in October that he was a strong advocate of community policing.
But Barbara Fair, an organizer at the local criminal-justice reform agency People Against Injustice, criticized Lewis for moving away from community policing. In a phone interview Thursday, Fair said that as a result of recent policies with uncertain effects on reducing crime, people are losing trust in the police. Police actions, she said, do not match Lewis’ words.
“Community policing is important because if police build a good reputation with the community, the community will help the police,” Fair said, noting that city youth should see police as friends, not enemies.
Lewis said officers did not have a clear picture of what community policing meant. The new mission statement, which was developed through focus groups with employees and community members, was an opportunity to clarify what officers’ roles are, he said.
The NHPD’s new mission statement in-part reads: “We are dedicated to reducing crime and providing a safe environment by targeting quality of life issues in our neighborhoods and business community through aggressive enforcement of the law.”
“This isn’t about switching the little phrases on the cards,” DeStefano said. “It’s what we expect of each other as residents; it’s what we expect of our police officers and ourselves. This isn’t about a logo.”
Lewis announced a new policing strategy to accompany the new mission statement. The new crime strategy, titled “Targeted Activity Policing,” focuses on five areas: gun enforcement, narcotics enforcement, traffic enforcement, quality of life issues and youth programming. To address quality of life issues, Lewis lauded the formation of a new street crimes unit which will have two teams each made up of one sergeant, two detectives and four officers, launched Sunday.
These teams will not respond to 911 calls but instead focus on specific behaviors at specific locations. Lewis said a similar system was used in Pomona, Calif., where he previously served as chief. The Yale Police Department currently uses its Communications Division to achieve a similar purpose.
The department’s new focus on gun enforcement follows a year when the number of homicides in the city increased by 69 percent, though the total number of violent crimes decreased. Twenty of the 22 homicides in 2008 were committed using firearms.
This year appears to be following the same trend: Violent crime was 14 percent lower in January 2009 than in January 2008, but the number of assaults with firearms increased 30 percent, compared to 2008.
The NHPD began the focusing on traffic enforcement last year, launching a new traffic enforcement unit in the fall of 2008; traffic citations increased 48 percent from 2007 to 2008. And the NHPD’s new narcotics unit was re-launched last Sunday.
The per-capita violent crime rate in 2007 in New Haven was over twice the national average but comparable to that of Hartford and Bridgeport.
Amy Ramirez contributed reporting.