HAVERHILL — Gang activity and violent crime are on the rise in the city, according to the patrolmen’s union.
The patrolmen said several violent disturbances in the last few weeks have resulted in many arrests and left several officers injured.
They include an incident last weekend described by police as a wild scene in which a large group of people that included one man with a bat chasing someone through a neighborhood just north of downtown. Five adults and three teenage boys were arrested in that incident, to which eight officers responded.
The patrolmen’s union said the Police Department continues to lack enough manpower and resources to adequately respond to the increase in gang activity and violent crime. Last weekend’s incident closely followed recent orders by senior police officials to reduce the number of officers on the overnight patrol shift and in the department’s street crimes unit, the union said.
“Our concern is that until very recently the city has denied knowledge of increasing gang activity in Haverhill,” the union said in a written statement. “It’s clear now that it can no longer be denied that gang activity is present and it has brought violence and drugs to our community.”
Mayor James Fiorentini disputed that crime is on the rise. On the contrary, the mayor said new statistics compiled by police show that crime is actually down about 2 percent in the last year.
Nonetheless, Fiorentini said the Police Department will pump up a number of anti-gang programs thanks to a $98,000 state grant announced last week by state Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill. The Shannon Community Safety Initiative grants are awarded to communities with high levels of youth violence and gang problems, Dempsey said.
The mayor said grant money will pay for special patrols and “gang resistance” programs aimed at teenagers. The programs are run by police and the School Department.