Drinking, drugs and fighting are just some of the problems police in New Haven are trying to crack down on when it comes to the city green.
Officers said they are working to clean up the quality of life around the area.
They said they hope a pilot program and some community policing will do the trick. They called it a hands-on approach that’s highly visible.
Many people told Eyewitness News that they’ve seen an improvement.
Sgt. Roy Davis walks around the green about half a dozen times every morning. He said he likes to stop and chat with those who know the area best.
He asks those living there how they’re doing and forms a bond by even handing out books.
Davis said he’s been downtown’s top cop for just two weeks. He’s the district manager for downtown and Wooster Square.
“If you actually look at the stats, the crime downtown is very minimal,” he said. “It’s that appearance of being unsafe and that's really the quality of life issues we're coming after."
Davis said they’re going after drinking, drugs, aggressive panhandling and fighting like a disturbance that made the rounds in a Facebook video recently. It showed a large group fighting near a bus stop on the green.
Davis said it was over the sale of loose cigarettes. Through that video, he said they’ve identified some of the people involved.
“Since then, we've brought down the state, looked into the loose cigarette sales,” he said. “We've got narcotics doing undercover stuff here every day [and] we've got the motor unit. There are plenty of police down here."
Bobbi Lawrence said she’s definitely picked up on the extra officers patrolling the green.
"I have seen a difference, it makes me feel a little more secure,” she said. "It’s even cleaner down here."
In addition to the daily walks and talks, Davis said he’s looking into introducing a pilot program called Project Green Thumb. The idea is that when police issue tickets for public intoxication or disturbing the peace, it’s not a fine. Rather, the hope is that the courts will instead mandate community service and make the offenders clean up the green.
“We realize you can't arrest your way out of it,” Davis said. “It's a giant social issue."
Davis said the next step is that he’s hoping to meet with the courts next week.
He said if the pilot program gets approved and there is success, the next idea would be to roll it out to all city parks.
Copyright 2015 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.