Let There Be Blue Light

Allan Appel Photo Fair Haven’s cops and neighbors are dialing up a formula for hope-for crime deterrence, quicker police response time, and maybe even economic development: the installation of “blue light” emergency response phones at well-trafficked public spaces with a direct line to 911.

New Fair Haven top cop Lt. David Zannelli. informed neighbors about plans for purchasing and installing such phones at the neighborhood’s community management team meeting.

In a wide-ranging discussion of generally reduced crime on Fair Haven’s streets, Zannelli said he is committed to taking policing in the area “to the next generation” by “changing [some] strategies and environments.”

One of those strategies is following up on the initiative of a predecessor, Sgt. Anthony Maio, who with the management team and the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association first floated the idea of purchasing “blue light” phones.

The phones and their housing aren’t necessarily blue, but they usually have a blue light—the color associated with the police—on top to be easily visible at night. Unlike calls from a cell phones, calls from blue phones go directly to a 911 dispatcher in a manner that the police know instantly where the call is coming from. 

Last year the management team voted to dedicate $5,000 of its annual Livable City Initiative (LCI) $10,000 neighborhood grant for this purpose.

The police department found an additional $5,000. Now Asst. Chief Racheal Cain is researching the best device for the best price.

The Yale police department has blue phones dispersed widely on and near the campus.

“If Yale can have them and they are successful, why can’t the residents of Fair Haven? If we can get Fair Haven to resemble Downtown and Yale in terms of lighting, then we’re in the right direction. They deserve it,” he added.

Apart from the Yale police department’s network, there are only two at present at other city locations: one right by the downtown police substation at 900 Chapel and a funky contraption not even marked as owned by the police department stuck to a wooden pole at Kimberly and Lamberton streets in the Hill.

Asst. Chief Goes Shopping

Allan Appel Photo “The final cost of the unit will depend on the features we select,” Cain reported. “For instance, some systems are stand alone, which means they are mounted on a pedestal vs attached to an existing telephone pole. Obviously the pedestal version is more expensive. We can also purchase a system with or without video capability.  Again, video would be an additional cost. We are currently pricing various units.”

At the management team meeting last week, Zannelli said he has determined the best locations to deploy three of the phones: At Grand and Blatchley, at Chapel and Ferry, and near Chatham Square Park.

Those sites are where the cops get the most calls, Cain noted. “These areas have been plagued with complaints of assaults, robberies and other quality of life issues.”

On a tour of one of the locations on he’s proposed, Chatham Square Park, Zannelli said the specific siting for the blue light there would depend on the fiber optic situation underground. His sense is that it should go more toward Lombard Street with all its traffic and Clinton where it would be noticed by passers-by on foot or even in car. “The pole itself is a deterrent, and residents will learn where it is,” he said.

“If I can get five,” he said, with a wishful look in his eye, he’d place the additional one more at Ferry and Lombard and another at Grand and Ferry.

Zannelli was full of praise for his chiefs for supporting the plan. He said it fits in with his strategy of encouraging his officers to alter environments to make them them less conducive to crime.

If all goes well, there are plans to purchase and install blue light devices in other districts beyond Fair Haven, Cain reported.

However, for Fair Haven the phones are coming for sure. Whether it’s three or more, they should be installed by year’s end, Cain added.

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posted by: alphabravocharlie on October 12, 2017  10:16am

Back to the future. There were hundreds of “Red Boxes” throughout the City back in the day but there were removed for monetary reasons. While there are now wi-fi enabled emergency phones, all require a power source and many require phone lines. There are maintenance issues as well. Since cell phones are ubiquitous, why not investigate a system which people could subscribe to. I’ll bet local companies like See Click Fix or Graywall could come up with something good.

posted by: Realmom21 on October 12, 2017  11:36am

KUDDOSS and praise to the residents and management team for using resources for the betterment of all not for the egos of a few like another district that wants to waste valuable dollars on flags when the city is working on a deficit and many are going without thru out the community. This is something above and beyond positive

posted by: Realmom21 on October 12, 2017  2:31pm

@alphabravocharlie…the city cant squabble about the cost of blue lights, red boxes etc when they are volunteering our resources to put free WiFi throughout downtown. This isnt something we should even have to ask for. they have lessened the number of persons in fire stations where people often run to for help. There are few officers walking beats that see and know what is going on so investing in an emergency provision seems like common sense. Maybe if they werent spending money on someone hand holding political officials to the hair salon and dentist appointments etc, or elected and appointed officials jet setting around on the tax payers dime to say they are part of committees that havent benefited the city ever or fighting among-st themselves over whether a contractor is qualified to do a job they were chosen to do and now they dont like the answers they are getting so we pay and dont utilize the service, pay out for lawsuits that could have been settled or negotiated if there wasn’t so much ego in the room when negotiations started or better yet stop buying out contracts of unqualified people. we have spent millions in three short years at the pd and boe on incompetency at the top.

posted by: alphabravocharlie on October 12, 2017  2:53pm

That’s why they were removed years ago. They didn’t want to pay for phone lines. I can see putting them in public parks or other high traffic areas, but this is old technology.

posted by: Ozzie on October 12, 2017  6:40pm

ABC is partially correct that the Red Boxes were removed for monetary reasons. But the main reason they were removed back in the early 1990’s was because the new Police Chief Nick Pastore wanted to cut down on calls for police service and show a reduction in crime as he instituted his Community Based Policing . You have to remember that cell phones were not that available as they are now and a lot of inner city folks didn’t have house phones. So therefore they had no way to call the Police for say minor incidents.
      Pastore also changed the way calls for service were handled and officers were only given case numbers when a report was written. For example 137,000 people call for police service in a year but only 75,000 reports are written then only 75,000 Case Numbers for the year, get it smoke and mirrors !! Some of the strategies he implemented back then are still being used today at Comp Stat meetings where District managers are encouraged to lower their numbers. For example that burglary you had in your district wasn’t really a burglary it was a theft from residence, lower crime classification !

posted by: Colin Ryan on October 12, 2017  7:11pm

It would be good if some information could be provided as to how often the Yale blue phones are used. Or how often potential callers report not being able to reach 911 due to a lack of access to a phone. Or even how much each phone costs, which is rather vague in the article. It sounds like the phones could be a good addition but more data would be helpful to make a judgement if the cost is justified.

posted by: jim1 on October 15, 2017  11:19am

Thank you for these phones.