The people of Hill have welcomed a new top neighborhood cop – and presented him with a familiar set of problems to solve.
The new top cop, Sgt. Jasmine Sanders supports the Hill South and Hill North police districts. She replaces Lt. Justin Marshall, who held the position for three and a half years.
Neighbors learned the news Thursday evening at a community meeting hosted by Police Chief Karl Jacobson and Deputy Chief David Zannelli.
As Marshall takes on a new role as head of the department’s Special Victims Unit, Sanders will assume his role as supervisor of neighborhood officers and point of contact for community members.
Sanders gushed with emotion as he reintroduced himself to the neighbors. She began her career with the New Haven Police Department as a hill patrol officer, she said, and at one point lived in the neighborhood as part of the officer-in-residence program. . She has family on the Hill, she added, including on Spring Street.
“Tome, [the Hill] is like my home,” Sanders said.
Jacobson took the opportunity to brief residents on the policing strategies he hopes to implement on the Hill and throughout the city.
One such strategy is to create five walking beats that would regularly change locations in the city based on crime hotspots, with each beat involving two officers. The short-staffed department lacks enough officers to have a full complement of walking cops.
“It’s not your typical community policing,” Jacobson admitted, saying he’d like to establish permanent beats for officers to build relationships with neighborhood residents. “But since 92 people are missing, I have to wait for those figures to be filled in.
Jacobson said he plans to create a new unit focused on “awareness and enforcement” related to the public use of opioids, which has persisted for years near the APT Foundation Methadone Clinic on Congress Avenue. The unit would be “connecting people to social services,” Jacobson said, while investigating overdose deaths and targeting drug traffickers.
“It’s not just about quitting,” Jacobson said. He said he planned “appeals” for those involved in the drug trade, modeled on a program he once led in the department known as Project Longevity, which invites those identified as likely targets and perpetrators of gun violence to learn about available resources and off-street opportunities.
“For violent crimes, it works. So why not do it for drug trafficking? said Jacobson.
After welcoming Sanders to her new role with applause, longtime Hill residents dove straight into the concerns they wanted her to prioritize, sparking a debate about the role of police officers in addressing quality issues. of life.
Opioid abuse, for example.
Radu Radulescu, who lives near the APT Foundation Clinic, said its complaints about open substance use in the area were dismissed by patrol officers and dispatchers. He called for greater enforcement of substance use orders and greater consequences for drug addicts caught by the justice system.
Angela Hatley, a resident of Greenwich Street, meanwhile, gathered four of her neighbors to raise another issue: “Dirt. Bikes.”
Hatley and her neighbors said a handful of children on their street were blaring dirt bike engines late at night, keeping neighbors awake until around 3 a.m. Non-emergency dispatchers rejected Hatley’s appeals about it, she said.
Most of the meeting participants called on the police to step up enforcement of these two common concerns.
Hill activist Leslie Radcliffe suggested that police require drug users to leave public spaces, but do not need to confront or arrest such people.
“We don’t want you to be social workers. We don’t want you to be babysitters,” Radcliffe said. “We want you to be the police… To say, ‘You must leave.’ ”
Jacobson thanked Radcliffe. “It’s the best thing I’ve heard in a long time,” he said. “All we’ve heard since George Floyd is, ‘We don’t want police. ”
Wilson branch librarian Meghan Currey offered a different perspective. “I don’t see this as a community policing issue,” she said, addressing concerns about both dirt bikes and opioid use (which she says often occurs near the library). On the contrary, suggested Currey, the city needs more programs and resources. for young people, which could offer alternative activities to dirt bikes and drug trafficking.
Jacobson said the city plans to implement its long-awaited project COMPASS program, which would send social workers alongside the police to respond to certain emergency calls, in early fall.
Alder Evelyn Rodriguez expressed optimism about COMPASSechoing the sentiment that more social services are needed to address opioid use on the Hill. “New Haven is about the heart,” Rodriguez said. “We must be a community. She repeated long-standing pleas from neighbors for the APT Foundation to take more responsibility for opioid use in its neighborhood on Congress Avenue.
Alder Carmen Rodriguez offered an additional suggestion: a civic celebration outside of some of the hotspots of substance use and mountain biking, modeled on a Fair Haven community effort to “occupy” the area outside the Grand Café. Fair Haveners danced and played music for thirty days directly outside the Grand Café, a hub of gun violence, until the establishment lost his liquor license.
Sanders proposed that neighbors could walk the Hill with her, combining a police presence with the trust community members have already established in their neighborhood.
Hatley was unconvinced. “If they see us there with you…now we’re targets, because we colluded with you. She said that once someone slashed her car’s tires in what she suspects was retaliation for a phone call she made to the police.
“You have to be careful,” Radcliffe said. But she said her experience joining the Fair Haven group outside the Grand Cafe had been empowering – and she likes the idea of a similar effort on the Hill.
“If I hadn’t done anything, I could still have had a house full of bullet holes,” she said.