NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Residents of the Beaver Hills neighborhood in New Haven are asking for help from city leaders and elected officials after an uptick in crime in their community.
Data shows incidents of gunfire, car thefts, and armed robberies have increased in the area this year.
Beaver Hills is a diverse community with large African American and Orthodox Jewish populations.
Wednesday, many in the Orthodox Jewish community gathered at a press conference with State Senate Republican leader Len Fasano to call for action after they say they’ve been the targets of crime and anti-Semitic hate.
When pressed on why the community believes the crimes have been motivated by anti-Semitism, organizer Mendy Katz said of the uptick in crime, “It hasn’t happened before. So that’s why there’s a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.”
“We need to have the ability to walk freely in our community,” said Fasano.
“The first kick got to the back of the head. It felt like a two-by-four or something. When I fell down I got kicked to the face,” said Nir Bongart, describing the violent beating he says he endured just last week as he rode his bike home.
Bongart fought back. No one has been charged. He does not believe he was targeted for his religion, but he worries about whether this will happen again to someone else.
“Anyone else in this situation might end up beaten badly or dead,” said Bongart.
Rabbi Avi Meer of Congregation Chabad Lubavitch says the synagogue has been broken into three times by the same person.
Residents also described break-ins and petty crime. Johnny Grunblatt says robbers broke into his garage and stole $1,500 worth of personal items.
“They took my son’s bike, a couple heaters, they took a spray painter worth $700,” said Grunblatt, “We love New Haven. We love our neighborhood. We pay enough taxes, super high taxes, way higher than other cities. And all we ask is that we feel safe.”
Fasano wants to revisit the Police Accountability law which he says is already leading to shrinking officer ranks and low morale.
Community leaders want more officers on the street, and solutions from City Hall.
Something they say they’re not getting despite being in open dialogue with the police chief, district lieutenant, and Mayor Justin Elicker.
“We’ve increased patrols in the neighborhood,” the mayor said. “I think it’s important to underscore that this isn’t just about increasing policing but addressing the underlying reasons for crime. Much of that is about poverty. I’d love to snap my fingers and every neighborhood would have more beat officers because we’d be able to fund them. That’s just not the reality we’re in.”
“Unless residents are willing to pay more taxes or we get more funding from the state or Yale University, we’re going to continue to have to make very difficult decisions,” he added.
In the meantime, neighbors say they’re forced to organize their own patrols, driving in civilian cars with flashing lights around the neighborhood every night.
“Right now we have no choice. We have to protect ourselves,” said Bongart.