NLPD hosts community forum after string of violent crimes
New London — After a series of violent crimes in the city, police and Trinity Missionary Baptist Church held a community forum Friday night, the first of several meet-ups in the works to give residents an opportunity to voice their concerns.
The church, at 60 Blackhall St., is located a block away from the Grand Street scene and across the street from the site of another fatal stabbing in October.
Capt. Brian Wright said the community forum isn't a routine response, but the department felt it was important to give community members a platform to express their thoughts regarding the recent violence. He said the church's proximity to some of the incidents, and the department's good ties with the pastor, the Rev. Wade Hyslop Jr., made it an appropriate place to start the community conversation.
Hyslop noted that the small size of the audience — about two dozen people — in the church sanctuary Friday was likely due to people being out of town for Christmas, but he and Wright wanted to have the meeting sooner rather than later. In addition to neighbors and other community members, Mayor Michael Passero, City Councilor Martin Olsen and state Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, also were in attendance.
Several residents expressed concerns about the lack of street-level police presence in the community and said they wanted to see more officers walking their beats rather than driving them and especially interacting more with the youth population. Building community relations was a recurring theme in Wright's responses to residents, reinforcing the idea that police and the people are partners in the fight against crime.
He said the department was working on starting youth programming at the Truman Street substation to give area kids a place to work on homework with tutors from area colleges or just play some pick-up basketball with their friends.
Passero also noted the city's commitment to growing the police force to help address residents' frustrations with lack of coverage; he said the force has grown to 69 officers, up from 48 a few years ago.
Daryl McGraw, a resident on nearby Prest Street, said his street is no longer an "open air drug market" thanks to collaboration with police and his neighbors. He admitted that not everyone may be willing to confront dealers on their street face-to-face, but everyone can play a part in taking back their neighborhoods.
At the forum, Wright also announced the police department was going to start a monthly advisory group with Chief Peter Reichard for residents interested in helping come up with solutions for community issues.
"We have the support of City Hall, we have support at the state level, and we have some community members that are working to get into the thick of things and attack the problems," he said. "As I like to say, 'Don't speak about it, be about it,' and I think that's key."
The police department plans to hold more community forums in the future, utilizing different locations around the city to get more neighborhoods involved.
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