By John Barry
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy praised Norwich's crime-fighting efforts during a discussion with city residents and leaders Wednesday.
"I appreciate the efforts going on here," he said.
The governor also promised continued support from the state police. He noted members of the state police gang unit and narcotics task force had accompanied him on his visit.
Norwich was Malloy's seventh stop this summer during which he held similar discussions about urban violence.
Although saying that 80 percent of the state's homicides take place in just four cities, Malloy said Norwich continues to experience problems with violence associated with drug trafficking and illegal gun sales.
Norwich has had one homicide this year. Michael Rios was accused in May of killing a 13-month-old child in his care.
"We're seeing results," Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro said. "We're starting to drive down violent crime."
Fusaro said the police have revived a community policing unit, during which pairs of officers patrol on foot or by bicycle and get to know residents and business owners, rather than just answering crime complaints.
"There really is no other successful model of policing," Malloy said. "Communication, community outreach works."
Malloy said that when he was mayor of Stamford, his police chief had called community policing a program. "It's not a program, it's a philosophy," he said. "It's a way of preventing crime."
Peter Procko, chairman of the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, said police, through the community policing unit and surveillance cameras installed along Central Avenue, have greatly improved conditions in that section of the city.
"One of the best programs we've got is these guys on the bikes," Procko said. "If you come to Greeneville now, you see people walking to church. That's a wonderful thing."
Malloy said he is a big advocate of using police surveillance cameras to fight crime. "Clearly, a surveillance system is a cost-effective way to do that," he said.
Fusaro agreed that the cameras had a positive effect after they were installed, even before they actually were working, and, since then, they have been a useful tool for police. "We can react in real time to what's happening," he said.
Olive Buddington, a member of the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, urged adults to speak out when they see children doing wrong.
"Remember to say something to a child. Kids love attention," Buddington said.
"Adults like attention too," Malloy said.
Tamara Lanier, chief probation officer in Norwich's probation office, said domestic violence, drug crimes and drunken driving remain serious problems for people served by her office. "No matter how much attention we focus, they continue to happen," she said.
Several residents also spoke about the importance of programs that assist young people. Shanise Brown, 14, one of numerous members of Bully Busters who attended the discussion, urged the governor to continue to support the group.
"It's been one of the best experiences of my life so far, working with these kids," said Alexyss Fuller, who is involved in a summer youth employment program co-sponsored by Bully Busters and the city's Youth Services Bureau. "The kids rely on these programs."
Kaci Smeald, 13, said before- and after-school programs help keep children out of trouble.
"We are trying to reach every student," Norwich Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver said.
"In a very difficult economy, we have increased funding for schools," Malloy said. "We see the value of before-school and after-school programs."
Malloy answered questions on any topic. Lionel Dudley, 14, asked why the state had helped the city build the Intermodal Transportation Center off West Main Street across from the marina.
"I think it's a waste of money," Lionel said.
The governor replied that the state has invested to expand bus service in the region, and that it would take time for people to leave their cars in favor of public transportation.
Alderman Tucker Braddock stressed the importance of creating jobs in the state and asked what the state was doing about southeastern Connecticut's problems.
"We're putting a lot of money into tourism promotion," Malloy said. "Ultimately, this part of the state is going to benefit long-term if we sustain that effort."