After several months of continued gun-related homicides, the New Haven Police Department has requested further funding to help prevent violence in the city’s communities.
Yesterday evening, the Board of Alders’ Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution that would allow the city to submit an application for a federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. If granted to New Haven, the funding would provide the NHPD with $42,000 to expand several existing programs, including mental health training and the SpotShooter gunshot detector, and upgrade their computer system.
Speaking alongside Assistant Police Chief Anthony Campbell, Sandra Koorejian, executive director of New Haven’s Domestic Violence Services — an activist group that offers services for victims of domestic violence — and a granter writer for the NHPD, underscored to the committee the importance of the extra funding. According to Koorejian, the funding would be used in four specific ways: expanding the ShotSpotter gunshot detection service, upgrading computer equipment, purchasing privacy barrier screens for crime scene investigations and providing mental health training for all sworn personnel.
“We had a number of choices to make when deciding where the money should go, and these four were very important,” said Koorejian.
Campbell echoed her sentiment, adding that the new computing system would allow New Haven’s police force to process warrants and arrests more quickly. The new computing system would also help officers more accurately identify homicide victims using forensic material, he said.
After acknowledging the need for the new computer system, Campbell went on to underline the need for an expansion of the SpotShooter system used in the city. SpotShooter — a gunshot detection service used in numerous cities across the country — is an essential factor in the prevention of gun-related homicides because it helps police track and map gun activity in the city, he said. The city first implemented the system in 2009 and now has over 20 sensors throughout the city.
“When a shot goes off, we can estimate its origins up to four feet,” Campbell said. “ShotSpotter makes it so that we can apprehend the perpetrators — they’re going to get caught.”
Ward 15 Alder Ernie Santiago, who represents Fair Haven, voiced concerns about the limited area of the city that the system covers. Campbell mentioned that while the system covers a good portion of the city, it does not cover Fair Haven and other communities, prompting Santiago to ask how the program can benefit the entire city. Campbell explained that the police department hopes to continually expand ShotSpotter until it can cover the entire city.
“If we can show that this really works, we can win more grants and continue to expand across greater New Haven,” he said.
Other alders on the committee expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of expanding SpotShooter. Ward 17 Alder Alphonse Paolillo, who represents the Annex and East Shore neighborhoods, encouraged an expansion of the system because he said it promotes community policing. While he did not think that the technology could solve all of the city’s problems with violence, he said he sees the system as a good supplement to police patrols.
“True community-based policing is about preventing the next occurrence and finding the root causes and trying to get behind what the shooting was about, and I think that SpotShooter would be good for this,” he said.
Correction: April 22
A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Alphonse Paolillo represents East Haven on the Board of Alders when, in fact, he represents the Annex and East Shore neighborhoods.