HAVERHILL — Enough is enough.

So say city councilors who are concerned about the amount of time police spend responding to runaways from group homes in the city.

In January, councilors told operators of group homes for teenagers that they must control the runaway situation. Their comments came after police complained they waste time on runaway calls, causing them them to neglect other areas of Haverhill where crime occurs.

The runaway problem has continued. At Tuesday night's council meeting, police Chief Alan DeNaro will discuss it with councilors.

The police log lists several responses each week to calls about runaways from the homes. The homes are located on South Kimball, Liberty and Freeman streets, and Trumbell Avenue.

Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua has requested an update from DeNaro on the calls.

"If in fact, there is an excessive or inordinate amount of calls, that means we're pulling resources from other parts of the city to deal with them," Bevilacqua said.

"I agree that it's a serious problem," said Council President John Michitson. "I'm curious to see what we can do, interested to hear recommendations from police."

Bevilacqua said if the problem isn't improving, it may be time to bring in operators of the group homes to meet with the council.

A first-term councilor, Bevilacqua has drawn the ire of several other councilors who said he is grandstanding and "chasing headlines" with some of the items he has placed on council meeting agendas.

Bevilacqua said he is simply looking out for the concerns of residents.

"My concerns are police officers being drawn away from emergencies to deal with these calls and what the effects are on the neighborhoods," he said.

When asked about the runaway problem in March, Steven Hahn, executive director of NFI-Massachusetts, the operator of the Liberty Street and South Kimball Street group homes, said his company was in the process of revamping its policy on when to notify police of runaway residents.

His organization's policy when the runaway complaints surfaced earlier this year required police to be notified of an "unauthorized absence" when a resident was missing for 25 minutes, a time frame the organization was considering raising to two hours.

"Eighty percent of the calls to police are for situations where they are either absent from school or the home," Hahn said in March, adding that his organization has a close relationship with local police. "Police get called twice whenever a resident is missing — once when the kid is reported missing for more than 25 minutes and once when the kid comes back."

Follow Peter Francis on Twitter @PeterMFrancis

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