New Bedford Councilors Want Answers on Public Safety Issues
NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford City Council is asking Mayor Jon Mitchell not to decommission Engine 8 or close the downtown police station this fiscal year, with the hope that officials in the meantime will find the money needed to pay for those public safety expenses.
The city council voted 11-0 on Thursday to send a letter to Mitchell requesting that his administration and the council work together to find funding for those services that councilors said are vital to the North End and downtown area business district.
“We cannot get rid of Engine 8. It’s a vital part of not only Ward 2, but the whole city,” Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta said.
“There’s nothing that can take the place of Engine 8 or the men and women on that apparatus,” said Councilor At-Large Brian Gomes, the chairman of the council’s public safety committee who sponsored the motion.
Gomes also said the downtown police station is needed to prevent loitering, drug dealing and other crimes already present in the area from spreading further.
“You close the police station, guaranteed you’re going to have a problem,” Gomes said.
Thursday night’s virtual city council meeting also provided a forum for councilors to express concerns and frustrations on other fronts related to public safety in New Bedford, ranging from questions over ShotSpotter to anger over how the public was kept in the dark for hours after a city police officer’s home was shot at last month.
“None of us knew what was going on. There was no release until the media exposed it. There was no information,” Councilor At-Large Ian Abreu said regarding the Jan. 28 shooting of a city police officer’s apartment. For hours, the public, including other police officers, were not told what had happened.
“This is unacceptable,” Councilor At-Large Naomi Carney said, adding that not notifying the public of that incident in a timely manner put the lives of residents and other police officers in danger.
“Somebody has to be put on the carpet and explain what happened with this,” Carney said.
The council voted 11-0 on a motion to request that Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro brief the city council on recent shootings, including those in the Brickenwood Housing Development and on Tallman Street. The motion was referred to the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods.
Councilors also unanimously voted in favor of a motion requesting that the New Bedford Police Department evaluate ShotSpotter, an acoustic gunshot detection system that the city installed almost a decade ago. Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn said ShotSpotter did not detect gunfire in Brickenwood and other recent shots-fired calls.
“Is the system broken? Do we have a coverage issue where some parts of the city are not covered by the ShotSpotter system? I’d like to have that conversation in committee,” said Dunn, who noted that other municipalities stopped using the system because of missed shots-fired calls.
“I want to make sure we’re giving the officers the right tools, and if this isn’t the right tool, let’s talk about what the right technology is that we need,” said Dunn, who sponsored a motion inviting police officials to a public safety committee meeting to discuss the possibility of the council being given a weekly crime report. The council endorsed that motion 11-0. Dunn also sponsored the other two motions regarding the police, and co-sponsored Gomes' motion regarding Engine 8.
“We have a right to know what’s happening on our street corners, neighborhoods, each and every day,” said Abreu, adding that councilors are not asking for sensitive information that could compromise ongoing criminal investigations.
“But there are certain aspects you can tell the community so that they’re on the lookout, they’re vigilant and they know what’s going on,” Abreu said.