Almost a month after New Haven Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett fielded a barrage of questions from members of the Board of Aldermen’s joint Human Services and Public Safety regarding how funds from a $1 million grant for crime reduction in Newhallville would be spent, he stood in front of a crowd of about 60 neighborhood residents, Alders, and city officials in the auditorium of the King Robinson Inter-District Magnet School to make his case again last night.
And this time he brought back up: members of Newhallville-based youth and community organizations that expect to benefit if the Board of Alders green lights the city’s acceptance of the Department of Justice grant money this coming Tuesday.
The joint committee sent it along to the general Board, but only after picking apart the tentative budget-which includes $550,000 for a combination of personnel salaries and community policing-and attaching amendments that require public input before everything from the fund allocation to the project’s management team can be finalized. The conditions were added as measures to ensure that neighborhood residents have an opportunity to steer the process toward directly benefiting the community, Committee Members said.
Youth Programs and Community Support line items-$82,000 and $12,450, respectively-are not set in stone because the budget was arranged in order to allow the city to apply for the grant, Bartlett told the Committee.
Nevertheless, local initiatives such as New Haven Family Alliance’s Street Outreach Program hope to get a piece of the funding.
Alliance Executive Director Barbara Tinney says that she would use any financial boost the program can get to put more volunteers in schools and around the streets of the Newhallville neighborhood to do the conflict resolution work that Outreach worker William Outlaw estimates to have saved “thousands of lives”.
“We’ve prevented tragedies,” says Outlaw, who, like his fellow Outreach workers, prioritizes the prevention of gun violence. “[You] go to the other party. Say ‘you don’t wanna have a beef with him’. Get ’em together. Sit ’em down and work it out.”
Eleven homicides have occurred in Newhallville alone since 2011, according to a report that was submitted with the city’s application to the DOJ. That same study also addressed unemployment in the neighborhood-the rate of which was 21 percent as of the 2010 Census.
Gwendolyn Busch Williams runs Youth at Work, which, as the name implies, is about creating employment opportunities. Residents between the ages of 14 and 21 are placed are placed in jobs, coached in workplace etiquette, and paid-usually minimum wage.
This past summer the program hired 617 students-11 percent of which came from the Newhallville or Dixwell wards-to work anywhere from 20 to 25 hours per week, but it would like to do more, Williams says.
“Unfortunately, because our program is grant-driven, we don’t always have the funding to hire everybody,” she said. “This [grant] gives our department the opportunity to hire more young people.”
Members of the public who spoke out at the December Joint Committee meeting pointed to jobs as a deterrent of crime, but the city will be somewhat limited in its ability to focus the grant money on that, Bartlett says.
“I understand that there’s a relationship between jobs and crime,” he said. “But we have to work within a box of things set by the Feds, so we can’t stray too far from that.”
That box is formed by the project’s four objectives: using a combination of “hot spot” and community policing to reduce crime, steer the neighborhood’s youth away from it, and rebuild infrastructure. Bartlett emphasized the potential to generate collaboration between residents, law enforcement, and community organizations.
“The million dollars is not going to solve all the problems, but it can bring people together,” Bartlett said. “And that’s the goal of this grant.”
That’s also the goal of community policing-a $106,000 budget item-says Anthony Campbell, Assistant Chief of the New Haven Police Department.
“Policing cannot be about reaction-calling a police officer nobody knows, having them take a report, and then leave,” Campbell said. “Their job is to get to know you, and have you get to know them.”
That’s why every new officer is assigned a beat and given business cards to hand out to residents, he said.
“A lot of the time you won’t even call the police department-you’ll call them,” Campbell said.
Boise Kimber, who is a reverend at a Dixwell Avenue church, has a similar vision for his neighborhood. A civil rights activist, he traveled to Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown-an incident that sparked nationwide protests against racial profiling and police brutality.
“We don’t want that here,” Kimber said. “We want a relationship.”
Members of the public who came out to the December meeting pointed to the Department’s controversial “Surge” policy-or, the flooding of certain neighborhoods with patrol officers-and asked whether law enforcement would be true to its expressed mission regarding community policing, or continue with similar tactics.
“It’s about elevating the larger quality of life in the community and recognizing that we’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” Campbell said.
The city can change the amounts of money devoted to areas such as youth and community programs, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room given personnel requirements like a Project Coordinator-a $173,624 position to be filled by John Kringen, an assistant professor of criminal justice from the University of New Haven.
His role will include reporting back to the DOJ throughout the duration of the 3-year grant.
“In that way they’re trying to template what to tell other cities to do,” Kringen said.
The DOJ also calls for a crime analyst, which will be provided by the New Haven Police Department for $13,575.
“This grant can’t be for every organization based on the fact of how it was written,” Kimber said. “So I don’t want you to be fooled about how we can spend this grant.”
That makes spending what’s left for other programs in the most effective way is even more critical, members of the Joint Committee said last month. They expressed concerns as to whether there is a potential to duplicate services already being provided to the community.
Patsy Rimbert has lived in Newhallville for 20 years. She suggests creating a centralized program that provides a multiple types of support to more people, as opposed to doling funds out to individual organizations.
“You can’t help one set of kids in one program and forget about the others not in that program,” Rimbert said. “I think a lot of people have really good ideas, but it’s limited.”