A resolution to reinstate the Meriden Police Department’s Neighborhood Initiative Unit is moving forward and will go before city council next week.
The city’s finance committee narrowly passed the proposal on Wednesday night in a 3-2 vote to reinstate five police officers to the NI after the city eliminated it several months ago as a money-saving measure.
“They’ve got a tremendous task and responsibility ahead of them on how to best spend the taxpayer money, and this became a casualty at some point,” Sgt. Christopher Fry of the Meriden Police Department explained.
“As being taxpayers, we certainly appreciate that, but, unfortunately, it was the neighborhoods that suffered from this,” Holly Wills, president of the Council of Neighborhoods, said.
While councilors have questioned the need for the unit and noted that overall crime is down, police said there has been an uptick in violence in certain areas and neighborhoods have pushed back.
“People had a perception that they’re not safe, and that’s not good for Meriden because we want to build Meriden,” Steven Cardillo, president of the North End Meriden Neighborhood Association, said. “We want people coming to Meriden and we want businesses to come here, and if they don’t feel safe, we can’t grow.”
If passed, the resolution would allocate $200,000 of the more than $400,000 that was cut from the police department to cover overtime costs. In a statement to NBC Connecticut, Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who is in favor of bringing back the unit, said:
"The safety of our community needs to remain a priority. While our stats will show an overall decrease in crime rates year over year, the public needs to feel safe. Programs such as our Neighborhood Initiative Unit, provide this type of security for residents living in areas that have been exposed to targeted criminal activity. The perception of safety not only impacts residents within these neighborhoods, but also our schools, business community, property values and overall quality of life as a City. These Neighborhood Initiative positions need to be reinstated and the City Council must work collaboratively with our Police Department moving forward to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods are not compromised."
City council is expected to vote on the measure on Monday.