State Budget Woes Threaten Project Longevity

Allan Appel PhotoThe police department’s number one priority—reducing gun violence—is being achieved and the crime stats prove it: Five homicides compared to seven last year, and a shining achievement compared to the state’s comparable big cities, where to date Hartford has 19 homicides and Bridgeport 18.

But would a diminishing of resources due to the ongoing state budget crisis put the brakes on that positive momentum?

No, and, yes. Possibly.

Those achievements, combined with a touch of low-grade anxiety about the resources to continue to advance them, emerged in a candid discussion at Tuesday night’s regular meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.

Commissioner Donald Walker asked about the department’s “plans for the continuing [state] fiscal crisis.”

“Mayor Harp is committed to not cutting public safety,” Chief Anthony Campbell replied. He said the department is not anticipating the need to cut any officers.

“However, if things don’t change soon, I can see our going to zero overtime. We’re not there yet and we hope and pray we don’t, and we have a plan [in place] for that,” he added.

That zero overtime plan would affect the configuration of the shifts and other deployments, but “it should not affect public safety.”

One area, where the state’s fiscal woes are already being felt: Project Longevity.

That project launched here in November 2012 by the city, the U.S. attorney, and the governor, identifies the small number of gang-related young men most involved in violence. It brings them to carefully choreographed call-ins to hear from law enforcement officials and community leaders. They hear a plea to stop the violence. Then they get a choice: Take advantage of immediate help in finding jobs, housing, medical care or earning degrees to straighten out their lives. Or go back to shooting — in which case local, state and federal agents will come down on their entire groups to put them behind bars for decades under federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. (Click here for a story on how the project helped fell one deadly gang.)

New Haven’s project has been successful. (An example was announced on Wednesday, with the arrests of six alleged New Haven gang members, affiliated with the Goodrich Street Boys gang, on federal attempted murder, firearms, narcotics, and racketeering charges.)

Assistant Chief Archie Generoso, who also presented at the commissioners’ meeting, attributed much of the reduction in gun violence to the project: Between 2003 and 2012 there were 126 shootings. However, since the advent of Project Longevity in November 2012, only 64 shootings have been logged in. “We cut it in half,” said Generoso.

That was one reason why already eight cities have come to study New Haven’s approach, including, Generoso added, officials from Honduras arriving in town next week for that purpose.

The anxiety centered on the paycheck of the exceptional former police officer who runs Project Longevity, Stacy Spell. Only he and an assistant are paid — all the other officers who participate do it on their own time — and they are paid by the cash-strapped and budget-stalled state. The state faces a $5-plus billion two-year deficit and is already more than a month late in trying to pass a new budget.

“He hasn’t received a pay check in a month, due to the state budget” stalemate, Generoso reported.

Commissioner Stephen Garcia asked how the department is supporting Spell.

“Stacy is doing an unbelievable job,” said Genoroso.

“Despite not being paid,” Chief Campbell added.

Commission Chair Anthony Dawson said he has some ideas to address the situation, which will be discussed at another time.

The chiefs also reported that 29 new officers recently completed their field training and are ready to be deployed. “They will reduce our overtime by $15,000 a day,” said Campbell.

After presenting the crime stats, Generoso concluded: “We’ll not be satisfied until zero [homicides]. We are bucking national trends. Our numbers are going down, while nationally the numbers are going up. We’re making it happen. It’s due to the support from you, the alders, the mayor. They have not cut back on money and resources. This city invests in the safety of its citizens.”

Some Trees Don’t Grow In Newhallville

Following the tragic shooting of 14-year-old Tyriek Keyes on July 16, not only are more police patrolling Newhallville. There are more crews of tree-trimmers at work there as well.

That news emerged in a report by Assistant Chief Generoso at Tuesday night’s commissioners meeting.

For the last eight days two of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tree’s four contract tree-trimming crews have been assigned to the streets around the Lincoln-Bassett School, the neighborhood where Tyriek was killed.

While tree-trimming is part of an ongoing citywide program, the Department Director Rebecca Bombero said that for the first time “we did a ride-along with the police to scope some of their requested safety trim, which resulted in a larger scope of work. The focus was in Newhallville around Lincoln Bassett.”

That scope includes raising trees to improve site lines for cameras, traffic signals, and lighting, she added.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Assistant Chief Generoso reported to the commissioners that the stepped up police patrolling was being accompanied by this important arboreal work, with an aim “to cut some of the trees around some of our cameras and lights.”

The city is in the process of putting up more cameras in Newhallville and elsewhere, he added. Cutting trees that obscure lights and camera views is work Generoso described as “essential” to enhance safety and crime-solving.

He said that officers indicated areas where the branch trimming is a priority and that the parks and rec crews should be finishing up in Newhallville this week.

Bombero wrote in an email that her department has over 2,000 “open issues,” or trimming requests, at any given time. The staff to respond to all that consists of two internal crews, along with contract crews funded through a capital allocation centered around hurricane season.

“This year the funding has allowed for four crew,” with the priorities being immediate hazards, safety trimming as requested by police, engineering or [the department of] Transportation, Traffic & Parking for site lines and secruity and then by level of hazard by date reported, she wrote.

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posted by: Noteworthy on August 9, 2017  2:43pm

Call your state legislators. They are doing nothing but waiting to be told how to vote. They demand more and higher taxes. They don’t cut costs. They are bankrupt of ideas and they are hiding from this entire budget issue. This issue has been around since fxxking February - It is not August. The budget is late, the excuses are lame and plentiful. Meanwhile, they all pose for selfies, go live and one even went to Boston for a conference on Being Ready from the Inside. lol - you just can’t make this stuff up. Meanwhile, this program suffers; schools are laying off teachers and others; not one community can do anything. Even well run East Haven has a hiring and spending freeze on except for the basic stuff.

The stupidity of not having a budget this late in the yar; of operating on a day to day basis by executive order, causing non-profits to close, of homeless shelters for women and kids to close - these nitwits couldn’t even pass a mini-budget while they traveled and played golf. Oh, and collected their nice paychecks, perks and accumulated their retirement benefits. Amazing.

posted by: JustAsking on August 9, 2017  5:25pm

A query, dearie: during this “budget impasse,” do State legislators get paid? Do they continue with their health coverage? Do they get per diems, stipends, mileage? Do they go about their safely upholstered lives while wreaking havoc with their sophomoric bickering, indolence, craven mediocrity and cowardice? Have they ever held a dead/dying child in their arms as ShotSpotter sends out its info, or hidden themselves and their children to stay clear of that (usually a) man that broke a few bones and altered their jawline? Do they even know what daily life means to their constituents? Just asking.

posted by: 1644 on August 9, 2017  8:16pm

Just asking:
I am pretty sure state legislators are salaried.  They receive the same amoutn regardless of hours or days worked.  For those who are actually showing up,  they would get mileage.  My impression is that the rank and file legislators are often on vacation, and that is why the Speaker failed to call any budget votes before the fiscal year ended: the Republican proposal might have passed because too many Democrats were away on vacation.  The Speaker even said they would not change their vacation plans to vote on a mini-budget. 
BTW, under the Governor’s current executive order, New Haven will get a total of $154 million in state aid, opposed to the $226 million it got last year.  The mayor’s budget, of course, assumes a large increase. Meanwhile, Tolland has laid off 15 teachers, and may cut 40, out of a total of 360 faculty.

posted by: Inside 165 on August 9, 2017  10:33pm

Was Asst. Chief Generoso’s statement reported correctly when he said “Between 2003 and 2012 there were 126 shootings. However, since the advent of Project Longevity in November 2012, only 64 shootings have been logged in. “We cut it in half,” said Generoso.”

Because if it was it highlights why the NHPD will never get it budget or overtime in order.

2003-2012=9 years
126 shootings over 9 years is 14 per year

2012-2017=5 years
64 shootings over 5 years is 12.8 per year

That’s not cut in half. That’s actually less than a 10% reduction. Remember we also have 3 months to go before November when PL started so it may amount to no reduction or maybe an increase. Who the hell teaches these guys math and how does the reporter not correct this statement. I guess in the Indys rush to wave the Pom Poms for the Harp administration facts and math are overlooked, embellished and just flat out disregarded.

One more note for the reporter. The state budget deficit is no longer 5 billion plus. It’s 3.5 billion due to the money saved with the recently approved state worker union concessions to the tune of 1.5 billion plus over 2 years. Remember those folks agreed to 3 zero percent wage increases presumably to fund Harps average 2.5% wage increases to city employees (sarcasm intended) that she recently approved for 4 City unions.

Paul I wish you would go back to your Advocate days when you held the city managers to task and truth!!!

posted by: Scamp on August 10, 2017  5:54pm

@Inside 165

What Chief Generoso meant was that the average number of shootings each year from 2003-2012 was 126 PER YEAR. Since 2012, the average number of shootings per year is 64 (and, at 33 so far in 2017, trending lower this year by almost half yet again). I don’t know if this was a misquote, or a misspeak, but this is the data that was meant to be conveyed in support of the point Chief Generoso was making.

posted by: Inside 165 on August 11, 2017  12:48am

@scamp

Well then if that’s the case I will retract my mathematical criticism.

I would only add that if the PD is going to sight the a five year period it should compare it to a five year period i.e. 2007-2012. That way it doesn’t look like they are randomly choosing numbers to create an overly optimistic achievement.

But it does seem to be some good news.