By Seth Daniel
Chelsea Police announced this week that they will begin an innovative pilot program on May 1 where four officers will have a full-time assignment to work with the community, business owners and City departments to solve lingering problems in the Bellingham Square to Chelsea Square corridor.
Chief Brian Kyes said the Department has reorganized a bit, and new officers have been added, and while he didn’t want to pull officers off of regular patrol, he felt it was time to try something new.
He said he put out the call for a new special, full-time assignment for four officers to sit on a board of community members, business leaders and City officials that would all work together to identify and solve long-standing problems in the downtown business district.
“We want to try to think outside the box and want to be very thoughtful and innovative so that we can come up with a solution to many issues and problems in and around the Square,” he said. “There have been issues for a long time. The look of the area and some of the things that happen there detracts from getting people down to the business community. The tide comes in every morning in Bellingham Square, it seems…We have to be innovative and think a different way and try a new approach to what we’re doing.”
He said the part that will be dramatically different is that the four officers assigned to the new beat, along with Capt. David Batchelor – who will oversee the pilot – will meet once a week at the Station with members of the community, business leaders, Probation Officers, ISD, Public Works, The Neighborhood Developers, Street Navigators, North Suffolk Mental Health, the District Attorney’s office, the City Law Department, CAPIC, the Chamber of Commerce, City Councillors, interested residents, Police Community Relations Director Dan Cortez and the new Downtown Coordinator.
The group will be known as the Downtown Hub.
At that weekly roundtable, officers will identify problems with the Hub, create a list of things that need to be done, and follow-up on matters that have not been accomplished.
Kyes said it’s part of allowing the residents and businesses to have a say in how the area is policed.
“This is how Police Departments can try different things with the public,” he said. “The best solutions come from people who may not be involved in law enforcement at all. As police officers, we can kind of get boxed in to doing the same thing over and over. Sometimes it takes someone from outside to challenge the way we do things or to suggest a different way. We should definitely be allowed to think outside the box to solve these recurring problems. No ideas will be turned away.”
One early idea, he said, involved the Salvation Army Store on Broadway.
The store is so close to Bellingham Square, and the fact that there is no donation box, often times people leave donations at the door and vagrants pick through it and make a horrible mess before the store even opens to get to the donations.
That’s one item that has never been brought up, he said, but one they hope to address in their first meetings.
Capt. Batchelor said the officers will have their first meeting on May 2 with government leaders, and on May 9, they will begin to meet with the business community.
“They will start on May 1 and they will go out and walk down Broadway and look at every building from City Hall down to the Police Station,” he said. “They’ll identify problems and issues and begin working on things to fix them.”
Batchelor said an important part of the formula for the police is that the Downtown Hub will help officers and City departments be accountable to follow-up an issue until it’s resolved.
“We really want to include everyone in this, citizens, government and business,” he said.
Kyes said the Pilot program could last 30, 60 or 90 days depending on how well it goes.
He said the four officers will be on duty in different configurations, and he said he preferred not to divulge how that will work – saying sometimes all four could be on and sometimes two may be on in the morning and two in the afternoon.
It will be a seven-day a week assignment, he said, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
It will also be in conjunction with the regular walking beats and the extended overtime walking beats that the City is already employing in the area. Those walking patrols have a variety of officers assigned to walking the corridor and some side streets between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
“We’re rolling this out on May 1 and I want to have a foothold before the really, really warm weather gets here,” he said.