By Bill Cantwell and Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — As neighbors complain about street crime and officers say they can’t keep up with the problem, Haverhill is getting $468,000 to increase police patrols.
The money, coming from a state grant, will allow the city to increase patrols in inner-city neighborhoods, Mayor James Fiorentini said.
“It will allow us to do foot patrols, bike patrols, to send people door to door and to increase police presence in our target areas,’’ Fiorentini said.
He said the grant will be used for police overtime.
“We’re going to use this money ... to concentrate community police in areas where there is more crime than in other areas,” Fiorentini said. “We do want to add more people, but not with this grant.’’
The money comes as neighbors of inner-city areas such as Mount Washington complain about street crime. The most recent serious incident involved the stabbing death of a 25-year-old man last week on High Street in that neighborhood.
Leaders of the patrolmen 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.
State Rep. Brian Dempsey said the city’s delegation to the Statehouse made Haverhill leaders aware of the available grant money. The city then applied and won the money, he said.
“This award comes at a critical time for the city,’’ Dempsey said. “I think Haverhill’s growth has been significant, but unfortunately because of budget constraints, the city hasn’t been able to increase police staffing to the level we’d like to see.
“We’ve been working with the city to provide additional police officers on the streets,’’ he said, adding concerns include the recent murder and street crime in other areas of the inner city.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro said the grant will be used to pay officers overtime for conducting “hot spot” enforcement in areas where crime is on the rise.
“We will have several locations in the city, including High Street, where we will be deploying extra officers,” DeNaro said. “It can be walking patrols or on bicycles, or detectives or street crime guys. We can be as creative as we like.”
He said the grant will also help pay overtime to officers who will be assigned to the dispatch area to take reports from residents who stop into the police station. That will keep officers out on patrol from being called to the station to take reports, he said.
He said the grant money has to be used within a 12-month period.
DeNaro praised Dempsey for helping the city obtain the grant.
“He’s been a fantastic partner and friend in realizing how desperate we are in need of resources,” DeNaro said. “I personally appreciate all of his hard work on behalf of our department and the community.”
Dempsey said the entire Haverhill Statehouse delegation pushed for the grant. Members include Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Reps. Linda Dean Campbell, Diana DiZoglio and Lenny Mirra.
In terms of Police Department staffing, DeNaro said five new Haverhill officers are attending the police academy and one more will start attending in January. After they complete their training, they will enter a three- to four-month field training program to prepare them to be Haverhill officers. He said those six officers will fill openings left through attrition, including retirements, officers leaving for other jobs and those on disability.
DeNaro said the department has six other unfilled openings and is waiting for a Civil Service list to fill those positions.
“We have 86 officers (including the six in the academy), but we’re budgeted for 92’’ which includes the current six openings, he said. “If we are successful in filling the current openings and no one else retires or leaves, it will be the most officers we’ve had in eight years.
“I will be having serious discussions with both the mayor and City Council in the upcoming budget process about significantly increasing the number of sworn officers we have,” DeNaro said. “We’ve gone a long time with very minimal numbers and we need to start augmenting the patrol force.”