As New Haven considers adding an 11th police district, the Bella Vista apartments at Fair Haven Heights will get a new police station.
On Tuesday evening, the Board of Alders unanimously approved the New Haven’s Police Department’s one-year lease of a ground level space in Building A at Bella Vista, an apartment complex occupied primarily by the elderly. The NHPD will open a substation in the space, which formerly housed a bank, to better serve the residents of the Bella Vista community. The opening of a substation is the result of a petition that Fair Haven Heights Alder Barbara Constantinople brought to the board two years ago, outlining safety concerns about the Bella Vista complex and surrounding areas in her ward. The lease approval is part of an ongoing conversation on the board about the creation of a new police management district — District 11 — which would encompass the Fair Haven Heights area. The new district would be created by splitting District 9 to separate Fair Haven Heights from Morris Cove in East New Haven.
Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Toni Harp gathered at the substation site with NHPD Chief Dean Esserman, Constantinople and alders’ Majority Leader Alphonse Paolillo to congratulate residents on the realization of their original petition.
“We really need this for our safety,” Bella Vista resident Fran Rogers said. “The drugs, the vandalism — it’s disgusting. You couldn’t get on Eastern Street without getting mugged.”
Rogers said it was not uncommon to see drug deals occurring on Bella Vista grounds, adding that the addition of the substation will likely bring area crime down. Fellow resident Charles Wiggins agreed with Rogers, adding that he will feel safer with the police presence in the area.
Constantinople, who is one of eight alders running in the primary election on Sept. 15, was greeted with cheers and applause when she spoke. The substation opening has been a central issue in Constantinople’s campaign against opponent and former Alder Robert Lee. There are over 2,000 residents of Bella Vista, and the community comprises nearly half of Constantinople’s constituency.
“Let’s keep up the good work. Let’s move forward,” Constantinople said at the press conference. “We will have more safety here than anyplace else.
If approved by the Board of Alders, Harp said, the reconfiguration of district lines will allow the NHPD to be more responsive to safety concerns in the Fair Haven Heights neighborhood.
East Shore District Manager Wilfredo Cruz, who currently serves the district that houses Bella Vista, said he is unsure whether the area will still fall under his jurisdiction if districts are reorganized. He added that the change may be the right decision for the local community.
“We really are a police department that does not work alone and does not choose to work alone,” Esserman said at the press conference. “And as the city grows, the police department grows with it. And as the city grows, the police department works even closer and closer with the community.”
Esserman thanked the Bella Vista residents for bringing public safety issues in the area to the attention of the Board of Alders, the mayor and the NHPD, calling the opening of the substation a collaborative effort.
Constantinople and Paolillo agreed that the substation was a reflection of effective community-policing strategies in the city. The substation and its location in the heart of Bella Vista will bring the community and the police officers together, Paolillo said.
As approved by the Board of Alders, the NHPD will lease the ground floor space for one year for the substation. Neither the plans for redistricting nor the staffing of the substation have been finalized.