HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini and police will host a meeting this week with the public to discuss Haverhill's gang problem — and the mayor will ask residents to help combat the problem.
The meeting, Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the city’s Mount Washington neighborhood, will update residents on efforts to curb gun and gang-related violence.
Fiorentini said he will unveil plans for a citizen-supported crime watch program at the meeting.
Jesus Ruiz, a member of the Leaving the Streets Ministry organization who counsels local at-risk youth, said he supports reaching out to the public and the mayor’s proposal for crime watch plan.
“You can have a thousand meetings, but being in the streets is what really makes an impact and change,” Ruiz said.
The Thursday meeting at Somebody Cares New England, 358 Washington St. is open to all residents. It is part of what Fiorentini calls his “broad and aggressive approach” to combat issues in the city, including those happening in the Mount Washington area. That urban area is the setting of much of Haverhill's gang activity.
“We want to continue to keep Haverhill a safe city and continue to make it safer,'' Fiorentini said. "We want people to be concerned and prepared, but not panicked. We want to send a clear message to gangs that you’re not welcome here.”
Scheduled at the request of resident Joanna Dix, the meeting follows an Oct. 13 shooting on Ashworth Terrace in which a 21-year-old Lawrence man was wounded in the face. Police arrested a Methuen man and 16-year-old Haverhill boy, charging both with armed assault to murder. Two weeks later, Mario Acosta, who police call a known gang member, was accused of shooting at a local couple while driving on Washington Street.
Expected to attend Thursday’s meeting are Police Chief Alan DeNaro, Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh, Ruiz of the Leaving the Streets Ministry organization, and representatives from groups such as UTEC and the Mount Washington Alliance.
Haugh hopes the meeting will allow residents to voice concerns beyond violent crime.
“This is a relentless pursuit of gang members and disrupting the major players,” Haugh said. “Gangs is our No. 1 priority, but there are other issues in the neighborhoods that we need to know about to address those issues simultaneously: noise issues, quality of life issues. We want to address those issues, too.”
Haugh echoed Fiorentini’s focus on residents in Haverhill’s fight against crime, assuring locals that community policing is a philosophy embraced by the Police Department.
“We’re all engaged in that type of community policing service,” Haugh said.