Crime was certainly the hot-button issue among the Councilor-At-Large candidates at a Candidates Forum Tuesday night at the Gomes School sponsored by the Alfred J. Gomes Neighborhoold Association.

The debate was triggered by a question from Standard Times columnist Jack Spillane who asked those on stage whether they felt safe in their neighborhood.

Incumbent Councilor Deborah Coelho, who lives below Acushnet Avenue in Ward Two, told the audience she does not feel safe.  Coelho said she can't walk to a nearby coffee shop in the early morning because of prostitutes and drug dealers nearby. Coelho says drug-dealers are spreading poison in the North End and its killing people.

Councilor-At-Large Brian Gomes said he didn't think many people feel safe in New Bedford.  Gomes called himself a "law and order guy," and will support the Police in their efforts to curb crime.

Councilor President Linda Morad also said she doesn't feel safe in her neighborhood, but she's not a cop.She's committed to working with Police and supplying them with the tools they need to do their job.

Councilor Naomi Carney said she doesn't feel completely safe and said her car has been broken into twice.

Challenger Carlos Felix dismissed statistics that crime is down in New Bedford and said Police are not sharing all that is going on.

But others like Councilor-At-Large Ian Abreu, and challengers Michael Janson, Paul Chasse, Lisa White, and Russell Dearing, all said they felt relatively safe in their neighborhoods.

Janson said he favored bringing gang leaders together with community leaders in an effort to stop the violence in the South End and West End of New Bedford.

Chasse wants more community policing and mentor programs in schools as ways to curb crime.

Councilor Abreu urged local residents to stay involved in their community, while Lisa White said more homeownership would solve a lot of problems in New Bedford.

Also appearing were candidates for Mayor, and the Ward Four City Council seat.