More officers and detectives are on the lookout for crime in Ansonia’s north end after two shootings there last month, Police Chief Kevin Hale told a roomful of concerned citizens Wednesday.
But he also noted the department’s 44 cops “can’t be everywhere all the time.”
“We need help from the public,” Hale said. “We need information. We don’t want to be an occupying force up here. It’s got to be cooperation, it has to be a partnership.”
In addition to the shootings, the chief also said a “dual stabbing” occurred in front of the nearby Domino’s Pizza on North Main Street May 26 in which an arrest has been made, with more expected.
And he said a Jan. 31 shooting near the YMCA on North State Street was “linked to individuals we believe frequent this area,” though the victim in the case was uncooperative and no charges have been filed.
In such cases, the chief said cops can only do so much unless there’s a break in the form of a witness coming forward.
Which is where residents of the area come in.
“We don’t need vigilantes. We don’t need you on patrol,” Hale said. “We’re looking for you to be witnesses — pay attention and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.”
To that end, a block watch in the area will be reformed, and police urged residents to pass along any information they may know to detectives — anonymously if they want — at 203-736-2140, while of course dialing 911 in the event of an emergency.
And don’t get frustrated if your information doesn’t result in an arrest immediately, Detective Rick Esposito said.
“We are working on it,” he said. “Things take a little time depending on what’s involved.”
The department is currently two officers short of its full strength. Its budget contains enough money for a 46 officers, even though funding dipped by a little under 1 percent from last year.
The chief said he hopes to catch up with new hires, in particular so that the department’s Anti-Crime Unit could return to a full staff.
“Optimally we’d like to have three officers in there,” Hale said. “Right now we have one. It doesn’t mean we’re not doing that work, it’s just not as optimal as it should be.”
He said that while he couldn’t divulge all the information police know, police believe a mix of people from the neighborhood and from elsewhere are responsible for the uptick in aggravated assaults.
“It’s not 30 new people coming in here creating all this havoc,” Hale said. “There’s a select few people that continue to get comfortable and start to commit crimes.”
So part of the department’s game plan will be to focus on quality of life issues — loud music, illegal parking, etc. — in an effort to get them to go elsewhere.
“People with the intent to come in here and do bad things, we’re going to try to make it as uncomfortable as we can for those folks,” the chief said. “We want to make it as uncomfortable as we can so these folks will move on.”
Edward Adamowski, the city’s fire chief and a former First Ward Alderman, said that’s good to hear — as long as it’s followed through with.
“Sometimes the simplest things that happen here don’t get enforced,” he said, noting that no parking signs were installed near a fire hydrant at the intersection of North Main and 4th Streets where a shooting two years ago left a man paralyzed.
“Every, single, time I drive by the store there is somebody parked there, and it’s like if we cannot solve the simplest issues as far as a no parking zone, how do you expect to solve anything further than that?” Adamowski said.
He suggested stationing an officer at the intersection to cut down on crime and loitering.
Hale said the intersection “will be a focus” of increased patrols.
Timothy Holman said he’s noticed increased patrols in the neighborhood — but asked cops to switch things up a little more.
“People get used to a pattern,” he said. “If you park in one spot and sit there, people get used to that, they just move over to the next block.”
Hale said police will be “more flexible” in patrols with officers on foot and in vehicles. “Lack of predictability is our great friend.”
And though the city and police have been much more active on social media in recent years — and residents themselves started a community Facebook page with more than 1,700 members — communication can always be better.
Example — after First Ward Alderman Randolph Carroll noted that a block watch had existed in the area in the past and could be reformed, Dorothy Mills said that was news to her.
“That’s the first time I heard about it,” Mills said as others murmured agreement.
“It’s been awhile since it’s been active,” Hale said, noting that though police can facilitate such programs, the community has to keep them going. “It’s not our block watch.”
“Yes, I realize that,” Mills said. “Because I am the neighborhood watchdog. I’m concerned about our young people.”
“Hopefully we’ll get you some help tonight,” Hale said.