By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — More police officers will be patrolling the crime-plagued Mount Washington area as soon as Nov. 17.
The Police Department expects to start spending a new $468,000 state grant for police overtime by that date, City Councilor John Michitson said.
The money is for increased patrols in inner-city neighborhoods and will be focused on the Mount Washington area in the wake of a recent stabbing death on High Street, several reports of guns shots fired in the area and other problems.
Michitson said Deputy Police Chief Donald Thompson provided the update on the police grant at a neighborhood meeting last week at the Somebody Cares Outreach Center, 358 Washington St.
There was also discussion at that meeting about forming a neighborhood crime watch. Several residents who were there signed up to participate, Michitson said.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the grant will used to increase foot patrols, bike patrols and the overall police presence in high-crime areas such as Mount Washington.
The council is scheduled to discuss the matter at tonight’s meeting at 7 in City Hall.
“The grant will help in the near term, but we still need a better plan for the long term,” Michitson said, adding that he intends to begin a discussion at tonight’s meeting about the council having a greater role in setting next year’s budget with respect to police staffing.
Leaders of the patrolman’s union have said their department lacks enough officers to deal with street crime in Haverhill. They have also said they are concerned about an increase in gang activity.
“I want us to identify areas of need, such as more police officers, sooner in the budget process,” Michitson said. “This grant and the overtime will help us in the short term, but it’s not a long-term solution.”
Police have called the High Street area a crime “hot spot” due to gang activity, as well as jobless teenagers who have moved into the neighborhood and aren’t in school.
“The ‘Hill,’ right now, is the biggest target area in the city and needs the most resources,” Deputy Thompson said at the last council meeting, referring to what locals call the area due to its elevation.
Thompson said police efforts to curb crime in the area have included sending police resource officers to speak with teenagers who are at risk of dropping out of school, working with the city’s code enforcement team to help property owners evict problem tenants, and keeping tabs on residents who have been in trouble with the law.
Extra patrols also were recently assigned to Lafayette Square, which is just outside of Mount Washington, following reports of gun shots in that area, Thompson said.