Photographs By John Murray
Yeshiva students were out in force last night during a special meeting of the Historic Overlook Community Club to discuss crime and safety in the neighborhood. The Overlook neighborhood has been plagued by smash and grab robberies the past several years, but last Sunday a Yeshiva student was assaulted by three teenagers and clubbed on the head with a 2 x 4. They stole his cell phone. More than 200 neighborhood residents packed into the Kingsbury School gymnasium to address Mayor Neil O’Leary and Police Chief Michael Guggliotti.
Attorney Greg St. John, a resident in the neighborhood, said Overlook residents need to use more common sense in fighting crimes of opportunity. Most of the smash and grab targets were laptops, GPS devices and cell phones. St. John said the best way to stop the petty crimes was to eliminate the opportunity.
Aaron Sapirman told the crowd that he is now driving a rental car because his car was recently stolen. Sapirman said he has witnessed several petty crimes. “The people committing these crimes do not live the neighborhood,” he said, opening his arms wide and gesturing to the crowd. “They don’t live here, we do.”
Mayor Neil O’Leary, a former police chief in Waterbury, has keen insights into crime and community safety in the city. He told the gathering that response times from police have been slowed by a shortage of 25 police officers due to retirement. He also addressed specific concerns about sluggish response times during shift changes. When O’Leary announced that the three teenagers who had assaulted the Yeshiva student the crowd rose to its feet and showered a dozen police officers with a thunderous ovation.
This Overlook resident lives on Woodlawn Terrace and complained about hookers working the street by her house. “I love men in blue,” she said. “What can we do to get more police officers in the neighborhood?” O’Leary said, “You’re doing it. We are putting the budget together right now and I hear your concerns.”
Rabbi Aharon Kaufman of Rosh Yeshiva sat in the crowd and listened with great concern.
Mayor O’Leary spoke plainly to the gathering and said there were no simple answers to some of their complaints. “We live in an urban environment and the demographics of the city are changing,” he said. “We are challenged.”
Waterbury police officers were highly visible, and popular, during last nights meeting at Kingsbury School. Residents of the Overlook neighborhood hope to see more of them.