With Pasta & Baseball, Newhallville Bonds With Cops

Liana Teixeira photoWhen “Big Papi” hits a homer in Fenway Park, it might be good news not only for Red Sox fans, but for crime-weary neighbors 130 miles away in Newhallville.

Every Red Sox home run is fodder for more conversations between Officer Chris Boyle and Newhallville neighbor Carl Gray (pictured), who discovered their shared love of the team over plates of pasta at a Saturday get-together in Science Park.

More conversations between neighbors like Gray and cops like Boyle means more collaboration on stopping and solving crimes.

That was the idea behind the first Newhallville Community Resiliency Team convening of Newhallville neighbors and cops assigned to the area under local top cop Lt. Herb Sharp. The event was held at 4 Science Park Saturday afternoon.

The meeting drew at least three dozen residents and eight officers who patrol Newhallville on regular and overtime beats. In roundtable discussions, officers listened to problems facing Newhallville residents, and brainstormed ideas on how to fix them, all while getting to know the people they serve and protect.

Teresa A. Hines, a team co-chair, helped plan the meeting. She said she wants neighbors to build close relationships with their officers and with other neighbors.

She said small efforts like greeting and checking up on neighbors, or reaching out to the local officers when issues arise, will help the district start rebuilding itself through reliability and trustworthiness. Hines and Joan Byrd currently serve as the team co-chairs.

When the Resiliency Team was founded in 2012, curbing the district’s high rate of gun violence was its primary focus. While gun crimes have gone down since then, Hines said the community can still do better and push the crime rate down even further. Hines said the team believes that building social cohesion and neighborhood trust will make the neighborhood more resilient and prevent negative events.

Boyle and Gray are on the right track to reach that goal. After learning they had both lived in Boston, Gray related to Boyle on a more personal level than before.

He said he had previously seen Boyle patrol the area and greet several residents. Now, he said, “you get to know them, to interact.”

Gray said building that relationship with local officers means it’s easier to speak up when something serious happens. Many times, people seen talking to police officers are labeled snitches, Gray said, but if the officers become friends, that fear goes away.

Latasha Comfort owns a screen printing business on Shelton Avenue. Recently, she noticed an increase in petty crime near the Winchester canal, such as stolen wallets, iPhones and iPods. She voiced her concerns to Officer Steve McMorris (pictured), who brought them to Sharp’s attention during the meeting.

Adding a summer beat at the canal area to address that particular issue is an option, McMorris said.

Officer Leslee “Choco” Witcher heard positive feedback from residents about former one-way streets turning into two-way streets, making it easier for officers to respond to calls or emergencies.

The importance of the meeting, Sharp said, was to “understand the differences” between neighbors and to let them know that their local law enforcement are always there for support.

“It’s very simple – sitting down and learning about one another,” said Sharp.

This first meeting has set the groundwork for future conversations between residents and officers of Newhallville. Sharp said he hopes to see more of them.

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