In response to a study published by the Yale School of Medicine last December, community leaders in Newhallville and West River are now taking steps to reduce neighborhood gun violence.
Researchers at the medical school trained 17 residents of Newhallville and West River to administer surveys to residents of Connecticut’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods last summer. The results indicated that gun violence is inversely correlated with strong neighborhood ties and community participation. Community resilience teams — organizations comprised of residents dedicated to community safety in Newhallville and West River — are now discussing those results with community leaders in order to determine how to most effectively promote stronger neighborhoods.
“People feel that the solutions we’ve been using thus far haven’t been effective,” said Ann Greene, co-chair of the West River resilience team. “[The study] made us realize that you have to tackle this issue from many different directions … and cooperate with others as opposed to compete with them.”
Greene said that thus far, the city’s efforts to curb gun violence have not involved the residents themselves.
Although Greene said that the community resilience teams are not sure how exactly they will apply the results of the study, she said they plan to meet with local political leaders to discuss the results in the coming weeks. The team’s scheduled meeting with Mayor Toni Harp was canceled due to last week’s snowstorm, but the meeting will be rescheduled in the near future, said Greene.
The study also indicated that the residents of some neighborhoods experience strained relations with the police department. In an attempt to restore these relations, the Newhallville resilience team has scheduled community meetings with the New Haven Police Department in March.
The two community resilience teams, one in Newhallville and one in West River, were founded in 2011. Since then, residents of both neighborhoods have reported a heightened sense of security, said Stacy Stell, one of the founders of the West River resilience team and current president of Project Longevity — an organization that aims to reintegrate incarcerated people into the community.
The community resilience team was founded at the height of crime in New Haven, Stell said. At that time, residents of Newhallville — which has a longer history of violence than West River — feared for their lives on a daily basis, said Teresa Hines, co-chair of the Newhallville community resilience team and a Newhallville resident. Shoot-outs, robberies and drug deals occurred frequently in broad daylight three years ago, when the team was just coming together, added Stell.
“Every other week someone was getting killed, people were afraid to leave their homes, and my own son knew most of the kids that were getting murdered,” said Hines. “[However,] after years of community work, my home feels safer.”
The community resilience team is considering establishing another team in a Fair Haven.
Still, the results of the study indicate that crime is still a problem and that stronger neighborhood cohesion is critical to combating gun violence.
Maurice Williams, who is involved with the Newhallville resilience team, also mentioned that gun violence is directly correlated with poverty. He believes that government intervention will be important for stimulating the neighborhoods’ economies.
Hines emphasized that improving the neighborhoods will be a multilateral effort.
“At the end of the day, we all have one singular mission: to make the neighborhood better than it was yesterday,” said Hines. “Making our neighborhoods safe is a victory for everyone.”