HAVERHILL — The adage of “see something, say something” rang true in Haverhill’s Mount Washington neighborhood Thursday night as Mayor James Fiorentini and Police Chief Alan DeNaro heard concerns from nearly 60 residents during a community meeting about gun and gang violence.
While the meeting was scheduled in response to particular incidents of violence in the Mount Washington area, DeNaro said he hopes all residents will help look out for their neighbors in an effort to reduce crime.
“We can’t be effective if we don’t have input from the community,” DeNaro said.
Thursday night’s session was centered around gang violence, but included tips on how to curb what DeNaro and his command staff called “preventable” crimes like car breaks. In the last month alone, 24 vehicles were broken into using a method Capt. Stephen Doherty Jr. called “car fishing” where vandals stole cars with keys left inside.
Haverhill’s major crime rate has trended downward in the last year. According to DeNaro, the city has had 12 shootings in 2019, down from 19 the previous year. Most of those incidents of gunfire were retaliatory strikes between gang members.
“Haverhill’s got a number of gangs, but two of the biggest we deal with on a regular basis are the Trinitarios and the Gangsta Disciples,” DeNaro said. “Haverhill’s a nice place to live, but even if they’re not here to cause a problem, when they come, the problems come with them.”
As the city’s latest Master Plan continues to take shape, ridding the city of absentee landlords remains a priority, Fiorentini said. He and DeNaro also pledged to install as many security cameras—at an estimated $35,000 per lens—as is necessary and feasible to deter crime.
Mount Washington business owner Keith Boucher, who recently opened MakeIT Haverhill at 301 Washington St., issued a challenge to Fiorentini and DeNaro to think “radically different” to avoid what he called a missed opportunity in the city’s gang fight.
His suggestion: Hire a former gang member with Haverhill ties to consult for the city and work in tandem with the mayor’s office and police department on efforts like street outreach and job skills training.
“It’s not just Mount Washington. So many people here are working hard (to deter crime). We’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” Boucher said. “We have to think differently.”