When you think about Spring Break, what comes to mind?
In Waterbury, police used it as an opportunity to take a road trip to the Berkeley Heights apartment community. Their goal was to take their community policing outreach efforts to residents who’ve experienced their share of violence.
This is what a ten year-old girl told us. “People getting killed around here, stabbing, car accidents and hearing gun sounds,” the girl said.
Another resident, the mother of a one year-old son, shared similar experiences.
“The fighting, the gunshots, everything that can happen up here,” the mother said. “I want every kid here to be safe.”
While kids are out of school this week for Spring break, the Waterbury Police Department and the Waterbury Housing Authority teamed up to host a Youth Fair there — a chance for police officers to interact with people in the community there in a positive light and a chance for several community organizations to highlight positive programs for Waterbury youth.
The goal was to let people know, especially young people, that officers care and that the city cares by highlighting positive programs and summer job opportunities.
Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo believes all of this will help police build better relationships with kids and those new bridges could help keep them away from crimes that plague the city, like youth violence and stolen cars. Chief Spagnolo says last year, more than 900 cars were stolen in Waterbury, most of them were stolen by juveniles.
“The stronger we can build that trust the better our chances are for youth to make better decisions,” the chief said.
Community activists who know kids who have been victims of violence and criminal suspects say events like this are important when it comes to deterring involvement in negative activities.
“It’s our goal with The Ungroup Society and other community organizations to give these kids as many positive alternatives as we can,” said community activist, Warren Leach.
The mother of the young child we spoke with agrees efforts like this can pay off in the future.
“People go around saying police are bad, they won’t protect us but they’re here now,” she said. “They’re showing real love. They’re showing that they care about us.”
“If they go to like different places and show us that they love us and care about us and will protect us, it’ll go a long way,” she said.