HAVERHILL — City Councilors said their top priority in this year’s city budget is hiring more police officers to reduce crime.
Councilors said lowering the crime rate is critical to saving the city’s reputation in the wake of recent high-profile and gang-related violent crimes and the FBI’s recent ranking that Haverhill is the 15th most dangerous city in Massachusetts. That is based on 2012 violent crime statistics, the most recent available.
The analysis showed the city was more dangerous in 2012 than in the previous year, when Haverhill ranked 22nd on the list.
“There’s a lot of concern in the community about crime and these rankings,” Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said. “We need to show the public we are taking this seriously and addressing it.”
Councilor William Macek said the city’s reputation and future hangs in the balance.
“When people lose the feeling of being safe, it can take a long time to get it back,” Macek said. “We can’t keep having media reports of major crime and drug dealing and gangs.”
Councilors laid the groundwork for their effort to push for more police spending at a meeting of the their Public Safety Committee this week.
They said they will begin pushing Mayor James Fiorentini at next week’s council meeting for his city budget proposal earlier than in past years. They also want additional details about what department heads have provided the mayor about what they really need to give better services to residents. Fiorentini has typically withheld that information from the council at budget time, councilors said.
The council can cut spending from the mayor’s budget proposal, but it cannot add spending. Councilors said there are ways they can influence the mayor’s budget in negotiations prior to voting on the plan, however.