The revitalization of Centralville, the first of the city’s neighborhoods to be targeted by the City Manager’s Neighborhood Initiative in 2009, continues.
Lowell Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee announced Friday morning his department is one of six nationwide to have been awarded a $900,000 Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The grant will fund the Centralville Friends for Improvement, Revitalization and Enforcement (C-FIRE) program, a partnership between the police, residents and community organizations geared toward decreasing crime, increasing safety, providing alternatives for at-risk youth, and enhancing the quality of life for neighborhood residents and businesses.
Partner organizations include: Centralville Neighborhood Action Group (CNAG), United Teen Equality Center (UTEC), the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board/Career Center, Lowell Parks and Recreation Department, Coalition for a Better Acre, Community Teamwork, Inc., International Institute of New England and Mill City Grows.
Assistance in implementing and evaluating the program will be provided by researchers at the UMass Lowell Center for Family, Work and Community.
“I’m glad to see they are circling the wagons, it’s a good thing,” said Centralville Neighborhood Action Group member Ann Marie Page. “People here are concerned about safety; our neighborhood has the highest crime rate and the most problems.”
According to LPD data, there were 12 aggravated assaults, 15 burglaries, 21 car breaks, 6 incidents of disorderly conduct, 3 robberies, 5 incidents of shoplifting, and 24 incidents of vandalism in Centralville from July 18 to August 19.
Page said the best thing the police could do is increase patrols in the neighborhood so the police become better acquainted with the residents and the young people. If the kids get to know the police they will be more likely to go to them for help when something illegal is happening in the neighborhood, she said.
“I want to go out the front door and fall over a cop,” Page added. “They are my comfort zone and need to be more visible.”
She added, in her opinion, crime has “gotten out of hand” due not to a lack of effort on the police department’s part, but inaction in the court system.
“The judges are too lenient, maybe we need to start electing judges so there is some accountability,” she said. “Vandalism has increased because we don’t punish people for that anymore; there re no consequences.”
In addition to the Byrne grant, the LPD has also been awarded a $50,000 Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Program planning grant from the U.S. DOJ to assist the city is creating a five-year strategic plan to address the needs of those reintegrating into society following incarceration, in an effort to curb recidivism.
“We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with CNAG through the C-Fire program and this grant will provide a variety of much needed resources to the Centralville area,” Lavallee stated in a press release. “We are also excited to strengthen the Greater Lowell Ex-Offender Partnership through the Second Chance grant. Recidivism of ex-offenders has long been a concern in the city and putting together a solid five-year strategic plan will allow the LPD to apply for additional grant funding in the future to benefit ex-offenders and reduce their likelihood of re-offending.”