HAVERHILL — Police Chief Alan DeNaro told City Council last night that the department has ramped up its efforts to crack down on gangs in response to Haverhill’s rising violent crime rate.
Haverhill was the 15th most violent community in Massachusetts in 2012, as measured by violent crimes per 10,000 residents, according to figures released recently by the FBI. In 2011 the city was 22nd on the list.
“Debating crime statistics is a waste of time,” Council President John Michitson said. “My eyes can see the problem. Teachers can see the problem. And residents in our neighborhoods can see the problem.”
Michitson invited the police chief to the meeting for his view on the FBI report and to urge councilors to support Michitson’s plan to begin reviewing police spending in next year’s budget sooner than in previous years.
“I want to ask the chief to bring us his plan to cut violent crime by 10 percent and to tell us what he needs from us to do it,” Michitson said. “I want the council to hear his strategy and what resources he needs.”
DeNaro began his briefing to councilors by telling them that Haverhill is also the 15th most populated city in the state. He said there’s a correlation between that and the violent crime rate, and he also emphasized the city’s large geographical size and its financial limitations as among the challenges his officers face in fighting crime and gangs.
“Gangs are our biggest problem right now,” DeNaro said. “But we are going after them and taking them apart. ... We are identifying the players and their associates.”
The chief said his officers have been successful at quickly catching gang members who commit crimes and working with prosecutors to put them in behind bars for long periods of time.
“We are planning more foot and bike patrols and we will have more officers out in plain clothes as the weather warms to address gangs,” DeNaro said.