Mayor-elect Justin Elicker. Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent

“Cameras don’t lie.”

Mayor Justin Elicker offered that assessment in support of his administration’s new proposal to spend $12 million of federal pandemic-relief aid on various public safety initiatives, including placing 500 new surveillance cameras citywide.

Elicker made that pitch Monday morning during a crime-related press conference held on the third floor of police headquarters at 1 Union Ave.

Standing alongside Interim Police Chief Renee Dominguez, the mayor spoke about how his administration submitted a communication to the Board of Alders last week that lays out a new plan for how to spend a chunk of the city’s tens of millions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

The proposal seeks to spend $12 million of that federal aid on a variety of initiatives designed to beef up the New Haven Police Department’s abilities to deter and combat crime.

Some of those initiatives include expanding the ShotSpotter system to hotspots across the city, funding $10,000 signing bonuses for “lateral hires” of certified police officers who currently work for other departments, replacing the city’s outdated Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management System (RMS), and buying and installing approximately 500 new video surveillance cameras.

“We struggle to get community members to share information” after a violent incident like a shooting, the mayor said about the camera proposal. “People are afraid. They don’t want to be a snitch.”

Buying and installing cameras all around the city should help with that problem, he said. He said New Haven’s public camera system pales in comparison to those in place Bridgeport and Hartford. He frequently hears from community members that they would feel safer if there were more cameras in their neighborhoods.

“I think that generally there has been an attitude shift that says that, if people aren’t going to talk, we need to find someone that’s going to talk. And that entity is going to be a camera,” Elicker said when asked about potential privacy concerns about the proposed camera purchases.

“And my god, there’s cameras everywhere,” he added. “We live in a different world than five, seven years ago.” There are cameras on the cellphones that many people carry around in their pockets. GPS tools monitor so much about where people go on a daily basis. “I think that has contributed to an attitude shift among people” to support the city’s use of more, not fewer, cameras.

The proposed order itself calls on spending $3.8 million on the so-called “City Camera Project.”

“The New Haven Police Department (NHPD) is requesting $3,800,000 to cover the cost to purchase, install and support approximately 500 cameras (may include some license plate reader (LPR) cameras) throughout the city of New Haven,” reads a fiscal breakdown included with the aldermanic submission. “Cameras are routinely used as a public safety tool to increase solvability and prevent crimes. These cameras would be installed near the entrances and egresses of the city and in areas that the NHPD has determined to be hotspots through the analysis of crime heatmaps. Additionally, the City is requesting personnel cost to be added for the project.”

The full $12 million ARPA spending proposal now advances to an aldermanic committee for a public hearing and review, before being taken up by the full Board of Alders later this year for further deliberations and a final vote.

ShotSpotter; $10K Bonuses

City Budget Director and Acting Controller Michael Gormany wrote in the aldermanic submission for this proposed $12 million spending order that American Rescue Plan money can “support communities working to reduce and respond to increased violence due to the pandemic by investing in technology and equipment to allow law enforcement to respond to the rise more efficiently and effectively in gun violence resulting from the pandemic.”

Click herehere, and here to read related documents submitted to the Board of Alders for review.

The $12 million in proposed spending that is laid out in the Elicker Administration’s communication includes:

• $3.8 million on 500 new city cameras.

• $3.5 million on a new CAD / RMS. “Our current system was purchased from a Vendor that has been bought out by a new company and the support that we receive from the new company is subpar at best,” the aldermanic submission reads. “The current Vendor has a much better system and prefers to focus its efforts on that system to the detriment to our current system. Will need to go out to RFP and review responses against list of requirements to select best solution for the City.”

• $1.2 million to expand ShotSpotter “for high crime areas” over a four-year period.

• $600,000 for police overtime for more walking beats and bike patrols, as well as for special details addressing quality of life concerns like ATVs, illegal drag racing, and noise complaints, and for supplemental narcotics and undercover work.

• $450,000 to build out another police data center at 200 Wintergreen Ave.

• $400,000 for bonuses for police laterals. The funding request would allow the NHPD to pay up to $10,000 sing-on bonuses for up to 40 lateral hires from other Connecticut police departments. The aldermanic submission states that lateral hires even with these bonuses would save the city approximately $22,000 per hire, as sending a cadet through the police academy costs roughly $32,000.

• $400,000 to rehab the police department’s data center, which is “plagued by overheating and insufficient power issues,” according to the aldermanic submission. “The server racks are overcrowded and inefficiently laid out. It would benefit us, to have the entire space rehabbed and bring in a third-party company to redesign and rebuild the data center.”

• $350,000 on cyber security upgrades for 1 Union Ave. and the municipal office building at 200 Orange St. These would include increased virtual private network (VPN) access to further support remote teleworkers.

• $300,000 to expand Wi-Fi access and capabilities for city-issued mobile phones and laptops.

• $150,000 to pay for a new “cybersecurity asset management” program by the company Axonious.

• $100,000 to update and replace equipment in the police department’s CompStat room.