NEW BEDFORD - Nearly two dozen people attended a community meeting at City Hall Wednesday to discuss recent criminal activity taking place in the Alfred Gomes Neighborhood. 

The meeting was organized by community activist John "Buddy" Andrade to figure out how to put an end to the issues of violence, drugs, prostitution bullying and more among the south end neighborhood between School and Potomska Streets and County St. and Route 18.

Following nearly two hours of discussion, Andrade left feeling like the group is on the right track and it won't take long to develop some actionable ideas.

"We should be able to come up with something with all those good minds in the room that were there today," Andrade said. "I know we can come up with some strategy and how to help families and how to change the behavior and deal with the culture of violence."

A common talking point throughout the meeting was the lack of structure in some children's lives that likely contribute to the increased criminal behaviors among the city's streets.

New Bedford Public Schools' Supervisor of Attendance John Tweedie said the growing transient population in the city may be attributing to a noticeable increase in violence, especially kids bouncing from school to school.

"Compound that with maybe a poor home life, gangs in the neighborhood, maybe a parent who is incarcerated or drug involved," said Tweedie. "All those things are compounded with not lending itself to a bright future for that child as an individual and as a student."

Others agreed that there is a lack of culture throughout the city and that more efforts have to be made to educate youth on how to be a proper, respectful citizen.

Ward 4 city councilor Dana Rebeiro, who represents the Gomes Neighborhood, said another major factor is the lack of financial opportunity. She said if more people were able to purchase and own property in these neighborhoods, there may be less issues since there would be greater investment in the community and people would be more connected.

She offered the example that if you know a friend, or a friend of a friend, lives in one area, you're going to think twice before causing any trouble there.

The entire group, which included Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III; New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro; representatives from the Mayor's Office, the School Department, the court system and various other organizations plans to meet again later this month to share ideas on action that can be taken.

Andrade said if this works, and he's giving it six months of dedication, it could serve as a framework for other areas of the city experiencing some of the same issues.

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