A New Haven neighborhood fought crime. Now this one has tried it too.

NEW HAVEN – Maria Bennett and Alex Lemon are fed up with the alleged drug trafficking and prostitution they say is epidemic in their little corner of Fair Haven.

They said they loved their apartment, but were tired of having to protect their children from the activity that was happening across the street, in the open air, in cars and behind hedges. .

To counter this and provide a positive event to draw people in, they took the lead after resident Sarah Miller suggested a block party to reclaim the streets.

The thought was the same that motivated Miller, Karen DuBois-Walton and Kica Matos, who this summer invited neighbors to listen to music, dance and play games, as they occupied a parking lot near Grand Avenue which attracted suspected illegal activity.

No criminal disturbance was reported in the weeks residents set up chairs there.

The couple set tables with candy and other treats for young children in costumes, dozens of whom showed up with their families on Sunday for an afternoon party.

There was music and puppet shows organized by “The Music Note Kids Club”. At another table, books were arranged for the kids to take home, hosted by activist Lee Cruz, Miller’s husband and a member of the library board.

“There was a shooting last night,” Lemon said, pointing to Wolcott Street across Ferry Street a few yards away. “A car window was smashed. “

“At midnight, 1 a.m., a handful of people were dropped around the corner, fighting and cursing. We have children who live here, ”Lemon said.

“I have to come in, close their windows, make sure they’re okay because they have to go to school in the morning. Not everyone lives like this, ”Bennett said.

Late unwanted visitors are common in the area, Lemon said, allegedly drinking and selling drugs.

“Do you know what my son said when I told him about the block party: ‘Oh no mom. Not on this street. You have to do it on a beautiful street, ”Bennett said.

Bennett said she contacted the police often and received a positive response. Officer Torres, who patrols the area, is “amazing,” Bennett said.

Miller said what is needed are outreach workers who can provide “a cohesive street-level presence that is constructive and focused on social services.” We need them to talk to people all the time.

Other street responders, led by Leonard Jahad, are adding to the cadre, but they have disappeared from Fair Haven, residents said.

Miller said there were neighbors who were trying to engage with suspected drug traffickers and alleged sex workers, but “we are not professionals.”

Miller, who is running for the 14th Ward Alder Unopposed, said the unwanted behavior was “put on hold for a few hours (Sunday) and now people see it as a place for families.”

She said as they were getting ready for the event, they saw someone selling drugs. But after explaining that a children’s party was about to take place, they left, she said.

“No thing like this is the answer. It’s an accumulation of interventions at the human level that over time builds a more connected neighborhood, ”said Miller.

Police statistics for the general region from October 19, 2020 to October 19, 2021 reported: 34 assaults; 20 drug offenses; 83 cases of threats; 69 cases of vandalism; 11 hold-ups.

Nelly Romero, who lives on Clay Street, joined the rally with her husband, Jesus Garcia, and their children aged 11 and 7.

She said she wanted to see more police patrolling Fair Haven. “It’s a major concern,” Romero said. She said that at night many people did not want to go out due to the lack of police presence.

Romero said his kids were excited about Halloween this year, having missed it in 2020 due to the pandemic. After the party, they headed to houses on Townsend Avenue on the East Coast, a safer place to cheat or deal.

Snow Turner walked down Chambers Street to the party with his Shih Tzu, Tody, as part of his usual routine. She was happy to see everyone having fun.

“Back then, we were having a block party on Exchange Street,” Turner said. She had no complaints about the crime on her street.

Another family from Brewery Square, which is closed, said they had no crime issues, but Ronnie Mantouck said he had noticed her on Ferry Street.

Geo Romero, who lives with his family in Fair Haven Heights, said he felt safe there, but not on Ferry Street.

“Once you cross the bridge (Ferry Street), forget about it,” Romero said. “It’s no longer certain.

Diane Ecton, who lives half a block away and is president of the Fair Haven community management team, said they were trying to organize these kinds of events to “let people know that we are. here in the neighborhood ”.

In addition to what others have said, Ecton raised the issue of vehicle traffic, especially cars entering the ferry from side streets.

“It’s crazy to get in and out of here. There were many car accidents around the corner and I lost several cars parked in front of my house. So we are trying to sort out these issues so that we can live here comfortably like everyone else, ”said Ecton.

Lt. Michael Fumiatti said Ferry Street has been associated with sex workers for decades. He said problematic stores in the area, where the drugs were sold, have been closed, only to come under new ownership.

Beatrice Codianni of SWAN, or Sex Workers and Allies Network, said she agreed with Miller on the need for social services for sex workers.

“I hear a lot of complaints about people who use drugs, the homeless and street sex workers who are just trying to survive. I don’t hear anyone offering help, ”she said.

“I don’t see a lot of agencies receiving funds taking to the streets to meet people where they are to offer their services,” she said.

“How about providing more beds for people who want to go to rehab, especially women? How about stop complaining if you are not going to find real solutions to help those who need it, ”she said.

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