Talat Aman, Contributing Photographer

The Public Safety Committee of the New Haven Board of Alders gathered over Zoom on Tuesday night to discuss the logistics of a $250,000 grant request for increased police overtime and community gun violence prevention programming.

The meeting comes one day after the Board of Alders unanimously passed a resolution that authorizes Mayor Justin Elicker to apply for the grant from the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. Tuesday night’s meeting served as a question-and-answer session for both the alders and the public on the funding and the logistics of its disbursal. The committee did not vote on any additional measures. 

At the meeting, New Haven Police Department Assistant Chiefs Karl Jacobson and Renee Dominguez said that half of the funds would be used to mitigate what they say is an increase in violent crime in the city in the midst of the COVID pandemic. The other half will be allocated to education and therapy services at Project Longevity, a New Haven program intended to reduce the city’s gun violence through community efforts.

“We would use [the funds] for high violent areas, where we are seeing some issues,” Dominguez said during the meeting. “Depending on what we get from the intel units, we should be able to say, ‘These are the areas where we are seeing some spikes in crime.’”

According to the committee chair and Ward 12 Alder Gerald Antunes, the Board of Alders was not able to have an extensive inquiry on Monday night because NHPD wanted to meet the application deadline set by the Office of Policy and Management. Tuesday night’s meeting served to offer some clarification.

If awarded to the Elm City, $125,000 in crime mitigation funds would be used throughout the month of December for overtime pay. These funds will pay for 81 two-person police patrol shifts, each lasting for four hours. When needed, NHPD says it will send these patrol officers to areas with increased violent crime.

Ward 16 Alder Jose Crespo, who represents Fair Haven, expressed his gratitude towards NHPD for their increased patrolling efforts. He explained that the rise of crime in his district, along with the lack of resources for police officers, has resulted in many residents calling him to express their concerns.

“[Grocery store] Ferraro’s is closing down and moving its business over to North Haven,” Crespo said. “They didn’t want to say that it’s due to the crime, but let’s be realistic — the crime in that particular area has increased significantly.”

In a New Haven Independent story, store co-owner Peter Ferraro said that the store was moving because it wanted to downsize from its 20,000-square-foot space to 4,600 square feet at the new location.

According to data released by the NHPD, during the weeks of Oct. 26 to Nov. 2, the percentage of confirmed shots fired in Fair Haven was 61.1 percent higher than it was during the same span last year. Still, the percentage of crime in the district considered “violent” has decreased by 30.6 percent since last year. Total crime in the neighborhood has also fallen by 38.8 percent. Across the Elm City, total crime is down 33.8 percent.

This application marks the second request in two months by NHPD to the state for overtime funds. In October, the department requested $60,000 to conduct a targeted distracted driving program and an associated media campaign.

Longtime New Haven racial justice activist Barbara Fair has expressed her discontent with the city’s request for over $100,000 in funds to mitigate violent crime. Fair told the News she sees the application for more policing funds as unnecessary at a time in which city residents are struggling financially. 

“The most considerate thing for city services to consider is that the city they claim to serve and protect is losing financial footing at a time when nonresident employees are making gains,” Fair said. “It’s simply unconscionable this would be an ask. The cost of policing is becoming more and more of a burden than a relief.”

The other half of the $250,000 in funds is slated for Project Longevity, which was founded in 2012 and aims to reduce serious violence through a combination of community involvement, social services and focused policing. The Board of Alders approved a proposal that would use this money for vouchers for temporary housing and higher education for program enrollees. 

Project Longevity’s New Haven program manager Stacy Spell explained in the meeting that much of the recent increase in shootings is attributed to gang violence. He said that through these funds, Project Longevity would award them the opportunity to shape their “destiny.”

“We tried this innovative, nontraditional law enforcement method of reaching out to people involved in gang gun violence and speaking to them as an uncle, as a father, as the godfather, as that elder in the community,” Spell told the News. “We want them to stay alive and not in jail — we want to see you prosper and do well with your family.”

Members of the committee asked Assistant Chief Jacobson twice about NHPD’s joint efforts with the Yale Police Department to mitigate crime in the downtown area of New Haven. Though overtime funds will not go to Yale Police Department officers, Antunes said that both police forces are regularly conducting joint operations.

Just today, the departments jointly filed two search warrants for guns, Antunes said. 

The New Haven Police Department is located at 1 Union Ave, New Haven, CT.

Talat Aman | talat.aman@yale.edu