Mayor James Fiorentini said he realizes the city's gang problem extends beyond Haverhill's 34 square miles, and he's relying on law enforcement and political partners in Methuen and Lawrence to help combat it.
Fiorentini recently hosted Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera and Methuen Mayor James Jajuga — along with Methuen Mayor-elect Neil Perry and Haverhill Police Chief Alan DeNaro, Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque, Methuen Police Executive Capt. Kris McCarthy and others — to discuss shared methods of fighting crime, and gangs in particular.
“Gangs are a regional problem, so we need to work together to identify gang members and make sure we are all keeping the heat on them,” Fiorentni said.
"During the meeting, it became very clear to me that police in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen are doing a great job talking and working together every day,'' he said, "and we all agreed we want to see that continue and even increase it wherever and whenever we can.''
Fiorentini recently approved spending for 14 new police officers to fill vacancies in the Police Department, and said he plans to hire 10 more officers in the new year. The mayor hopes to temporarily lift the Civil Service requirement and get part-time officers on the street quickly to help ease the staffing woes.
“A great police force, along with access to a good number of security cameras, has allowed us to solve a lot of these gang-related shootings in a short period of time,” Fiorentini said. “The gang units are out there talking to people. I'm very impressed with the Haverhill Police Department. They need more people: That's the No. 1 thing and I'll try my best in 2020 to give it to them.”
Gang problems have been increasing in Haverhill in recent years, especially in the inner-city Mount Washington neighborhood.
Three years ago, state police and federal agents joined local officers in the battle, making dozens of arrests and taking a variety of illegal guns off the streets.
Since then, the gang problem has continued to be a focus of local police, but the department says it lacks the staffing to do the job.
More than 60 residents joined Haverhill police and government leaders at a meeting in early December to discuss the gang problem.
“Haverhill’s got a number of gangs, but two of the biggest we deal with on a regular basis are the Trinitarios and the Gangsta Disciples,” DeNaro said at the meeting. “Haverhill’s a nice place to live, but even if they’re not here to cause a problem, when they come, the problems come with them.”
As the city’s new Master Plan to control future development continues to take shape, ridding the city of absentee landlords remains a priority, Fiorentini said.
He and DeNaro also have pledged to install as many security cameras — at an estimated $35,000 per lens — as is necessary and feasible to deter crime.