Crime is a pain in the ass to fight when it takes on a life of its own. It impacts neighborhood stability, business retention, business recruitment, and much more. And it’s a bigger pain in the butt when a chief executive is handcuffed by a budget deficit. Mayor Bill Finch doesn’t have the luxury to remain invisible in light of the latest spike in violent crime, with a reelection campaign next year.
Finch and Acting Police Chief Joe Gaudett conducted a news conference on Wednesday in an effort to create reassurance they’re doing what they can. Will it work? From the mayor:
Police Chief Outlines Crime Reduction Plan
Mayor, Chief and Community Leaders Unite in Call to Take Back Our Neighborhoods
Mayor Bill Finch joined Acting Chief Joseph Gaudett today in urging City residents to be more engaged and observant in their neighborhoods and businesses to help the police department reduce violent crime in the City.
“We want to stop the violence, but our police department cannot do it alone. Our plan outlines a community effort to get everyone involved in stopping the violence. Violence should have no home in our city,” said Mayor Bill Finch, during a 5:30 p.m. press conference held at police headquarters on Wednesday.
Acting Chief Gaudett’s three-pronged approach – enforcement, education and engagement, seeks to combat violent crime by utilizing police resources in areas where it’s needed most, educating young people, and engaging the community to effectively “take back their neighborhoods” by forming more Neighborhood Block Watches, and giving police information by utilizing the identity-shielding Text-a-Tip program.
“We encourage everyone to get involved. The chief’s program is an all-encompassing approach, but it requires that the community be responsible for their neighborhood and their young people,” said Mayor Finch. “This initiative is only as good as the community’s commitment to making it work. Continued education for our youth about the dangers of drugs and guns is an important component of this plan, and we will need cooperation from parents and caregivers to drive the message home that violence is not the answer to solve problem or disputes.”
Chief Gaudett stressed the department’s close relationships with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Drug Enforcement Administration as a key component in curtailing the flow of illegal drugs and firearms in the City.
“We need to hear from the community when something happens. If they see something, they need to say something,” said Acting Chief Gaudett. Gaudett explained the Text-a-Tip program the department uses allows the public to text information and remain completely anonymous. (To report a crime or send in a tip, residents can text the word CRIMES (274637) then text 717 in the body of the message and the information.)
Members of the clergy community as well as block watch captains from around the City joined the Mayor and the Acting Chief during the announcement of his crime reduction plan. An important component of the initiative is the institution of “Take Back the Night Walks,” the first of which is planned for Friday, Sept. 3 in a neighborhood to be announced.
“We’ve asked our clergy community to join with us, and we want to encourage residents to take part in these walks, to show everyone they are not afraid to be out and about in their own neighborhoods,” said Mayor Finch.
The Chief and Bridgeport Housing Authority Executive Director Nicholas Calace also announced details of a gun buyback program which will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 2. The program will be administered by the department’s Community Services Division with initial funding of $5,000 provided by the BHA which will be used to provide gift cards to local businesses to those who turn in a gun.
“Getting guns off the street is the most important goal,” said Mayor Finch. “All it takes is one gun in the wrong hands. We hope to see the kind of success that was seen in a recent buyback program in Los Angeles,” said Mayor Finch. A recent buyback program in L.A. resulted in police there taking more than 2,500 guns off the street in one weekend last May.
“Today’s announcement by Mayor Finch and Chief Gaudett is an important step towards finding a solution to the gun violence in the City of Bridgeport,” said Nicholas Calace, Executive Director for the Housing Authority. “It is important for the residents in public housing and our entire city to know to combat this type of criminal activity involves every one of us. We are pleased to play an active role to help families feel more secure.”
Gun buyback program opens on Thursday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m., at the Police Community Services Division, 1395 Sylvan Ave.
Take Back the Night Walk – Friday, Sept. 3, 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. in a neighborhood to be determined.