As New Haven officials continue to tout improved public safety, Mayor Toni Harp and Police Chief Dean Esserman presented last week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Little Rock, Arkansas on the city’s crown jewel for fighting crime: community policing.
Several dozen mayors and police chiefs attended the event, which centered on the theme “Making Cities Safer Through Community Policing.” Hosted at the Clinton Presidential Center, the conference featured remarks from former President Bill Clinton LAW ‘73 and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Harp and Esserman led a panel discussion alongside Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. The officials honed in on the problems facing urban youth, and how collaboration among cities, police departments and schools can protect this population.
Shots fired are down 23 percent from this time last year, according to data released by the police department. The homicide rate is down slightly, as well. Last week’s “Crime in Connecticut” report revealed an additional 9 percent drop in overall crime from 2013 to 2014.
Officer David Hartman, media liaison for the NHPD, said Esserman reinvigorated community policing in New Haven when he took office in November 2011. By the end of that year, the homicide count had reached a 20-year high of 34 murders. Esserman said at the time he was going to take the NHPD in a new direction — placing the reinvigoration of community policing at the top of his agenda.
After Harp clinched the mayoral election last fall, Esserman was one of the first department heads she pledged to retain.
“A police chief is only as good as a mayor lets them be,” Esserman said Monday, reflecting on lessons from the trip. He added that Harp was received well at the conference.
In a press release last week, Harp said that she hoped to share New Haven’s progress in curbing crime, while also learning new strategies to successfully address public safety issues in the Elm City.
Harp and Esserman pointed to New Haven’s Youth Stat initiative, which holds weekly meetings for agencies to share data about school absences and transfers, as well as involvement in the juvenile justice system. The aim is to identify at-risk youth in the city. The city officials also cited the NHPS Community Resilience Initiative, the umbrella title given to a series of programs aimed at identifying and counseling school-age children suffering from violence-related trauma.
“We talked about hiring school resource officers and implementing afterschool programs to keep schools safe,” said Stodola, who has been mayor of Little Rock since 2007. “We agreed that the ability to build trust in neighborhoods would come from enhanced community policing.” Resource officers serve as public safety and security officials at schools, according to Stodola.
Stodola added that the panel discussed how to strengthen mayor and police chief relationships as well as how city officials can effectively communicate with media.
This year’s conference of mayors also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Community-Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, a program that was signed into law during the Clinton Administration.
Under COPS, 100,000 new police officers were hired to patrol the streets of cities around the country.
“[The conference] was an opportunity to reflect on the gains we’ve made in twenty years, but also to see how far we have to go,” Stodola said. “The more police officers that patrol by foot or on bicycles as opposed to insulated from the community in vehicles, the better.”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has been meeting several times a year since its establishment in 1932.