New Haven has received a seven-figure boost from Washington in the ongoing effort to make Newhallville safer by bringing cops and the community together.
The boost comes in the form a $1 million Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Harp administration applied for the money to help the police, street outreach workers, schools, youth and health-care workers, anti-blight officials, small businesses, and grassroots activists (like a new “resiliency team” and “Community Matters” team as well as the community management team) collaborate on ways to stem violence in one of the city’s poorest and most violence-plagued neighborhoods.
It now has the money to carry out its planned “Newhallville Safe Neighborhood Initiative.” Click here to read the city’s full application describing the plan.
“This is great for the city. This is great for that neighborhood,” city Youth Services Chief Jason Bartlett (pictured), the Harp Administration’s point person for the grant, said after learning the news Thursday afternoon. “We’re excited about the opportunity to convene all the players as we continue Mayor Harp’s efforts to make this a safe city and to make it a place where our kids can grow up and our neighborhoods are increasing in value.” Bartlett worked on the grant application along with consulant (and former city evelopment official) Jim Farnam and Sherry Haller of the Justice Education Center.
Bartlett called the news “perfect timing” because the grant comes as a number of new collaborative efforts have taken root. He said it’s too early to break down how the money will be spent; first the city will “convene all the community partners” to plot strategy. His department will hire a manager—“preferably from the Newhallville community,” according to the application—to oversee the program.
The Harp administration submitted the grant application to the feds on May 6, citing an “epidemic of gun violence” in the city that had included 396 shootings and 76 homicides since January 2011.
In the application, the city promised to:
• “Reduce the high rate of crime through community-oriented policing and eliminating identified crime hot spots.
• “Reduce the number of youth and young adults caught in the cycle of violence, fear and retribution that is causing the majority of violent crime.
• “Strengthen community leadership and social cohesion to transform the neighborhood.
• “Address the physical deterioration of the neighborhood.”
The Byrne Innovation program seeks to identify areas with a concentration of crime “hot spots,” then explore how not just the police, but the whole community can work together to reclaim the streets. Read about the federal grant program here and about the city application here.
Building On Experiments
The police got some federal “smart policing” money to experiment with “hot spot” policing in Newhallville the summer before last. The money temporarily paid for overtime patrols to concentrate on corners where the most recent violent crimes occurred. (Click here to read a story about that.) This summer the city got money to expand overtime patrols in all neighborhoods, including Newhallville, and perhaps partly as a result, the city had a relatively quiet stretch. (Read about that here, here and here.)
While Newhallville has New Haven’s highest rate of violent crime,the city has cut the rate of violence there steadily over the past year and a half.
Police Chief Dean Esserman said Wednesday that some of the new federal Byrne grant will pay for more of those overtime patrols in Newhallville.
“We are very excited that it will support the continued hard work of collaboration between the New Haven police , the community, New Haven Family Alliance, the school department and other social service agencies,” Esserman said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Bartlett and Board of Ed Executive Manager of Strategy Gemma Joseph Lumpkin have spearheaded a new “YouthStat’ partnership of cops, social workers, school officials, and probation workers to share information about young people in trouble and figure out how to help them.
The city’s application for the Byrne grant noted that most children in Newhallville, which is 85 percent black, grow up in single-parent-headed households. The neighborhood’s unemployment rate,15 percent, is 25 percent higher than the city’s. Ex-offenders live on all but three of the neighborhood’s streets, according to the application.
The plan includes “leadership training mini-grants” for community activists.
Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn (pictured), who was consulted on the grant, said Thursday that she’d like some of the money to bring about some long-awaited infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood that contribute to an unsafe environment.
Neighbors have been asking the city to install speed bumps on Ivy and Bassett Streets and Winchester Avenue to combat speeding. Clyburn noted that broken streetlights and overgrown trees have created dark spots conducive to crime. Earlier this year, for instance, a shooting took place after dark on a Shelton Avenue corner where Clyburn and neighbors had been pushing the city to trim tree branches that were blocking streetlights.
Overall neglect of Newhallville’s public spaces has contributed to a lawless environment, Clyburn argued—echoing a core tenet of “broken windows” community-policing theory.
“We’ve been down too long,” she said. “We need sidewalks and streets done real bad. We have a sinkhole in the sidewalk on Butler Street. This has been going on for three years.” She predicted that infrastructure improvements “would change the people’s minds some. They’d appreciate what’s around them and try to keep everything looking nice and safe in our neighborhood. It would deter a lot of crime when people look at everything lit up and look nice. They think, ‘People care about where they are.’”
The Harp administration’s grant application did promise, among many other uses for the $1 million, to address Newhallville’s “physical deterioration” through targeted building-code enforcement, fixing up of vacant lots, improvement of public spaces, and “explor[ing] code and zoning strategies to remove nuisance uses.”
The grant envisions a good amount of community organizing. Traditionally that has proved a challenge at times in New Haven’s fractured civic culture—groups within neighborhoods don’t always work together. New Haven got this $1 million with the promise that it could bring everyone together to make life better in Newhallville.