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Police Invite South Norwalk Residents To Community Safety Meeting

Norwalk has been gathering information from residents and businesses and hopes to get a grant to help revitalize SoNo, or South Norwalk, the stretch of Washington Street between the Metro-North Railroad tracks and Norwalk Harbor.
Norwalk has been gathering information from residents and businesses and hopes to get a grant to help revitalize SoNo, or South Norwalk, the stretch of Washington Street between the Metro-North Railroad tracks and Norwalk Harbor. Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department/Facebook

NORWALK, Conn. -- For community improvement plans to succeed, they have to be about more than raw data about crime, poverty, housing and other issues. Without the nuanced viewpoints of the folks who live with those problems day in and day out, even the best-laid plans won’t amount to much, Norwalk police say.

In order to gather input from community leaders and residents in South Norwalk, law enforcement officials have scheduled a “Safer South Norwalk Community Meeting” for 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Choice Neighborhoods Office,149 Water St.

In 2015, the department won a national Byrne Innovation Planning Grant, which it used to survey residents and business owners in a targeted area in South Norwalk.

The area that was studied, police said, encompassed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, West Avenue to the west, the Norwalk River on the east, Interstate 95 on the north and Ryan Avenue on the south.

The area was chosen for a number of reasons, but chief among them, police said, was the residents’ sense of community, pride and recognition as SoNo.

The target area also had more people living below the poverty line than the rest of the city.

It hasn’t seen, the survey found, as much investment in businesses and housing.

South Norwalk “remains stigmatized as a dangerous place to live,” police said.

Several neighborhoods within its boundaries “do suffer from a higher rate of crime,” police said.

When police got the grant, to plan for “larger and long-lasting” solutions, they rejected the “old idea” that they “would identify the problems and tell the residents what our solutions are.”

Rather than looking a stats based on calls for service or complaints, they probed “community perceptions” on the human level.

Police said the survey was conducted door to door and in small focus groups and questions were asked in English, Spanish and Creole.

Grant program manager Jeanette Jean Pierre conducted and supervised the survey, they said.

Last month, the city received a preliminary analysis of the survey’s findings and sat down with Norwalk Police Chief Thomas E. Kulhawik and others to discuss law enforcement’s preliminary response.

Crime is not the only concern, police said. Input was also sought on housing and economic issues.

Police have also collaborated with the Norwalk Housing Authority, Choice Neighborhoods, Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, Fair Rent and Human Relations, Youth Services and other community stakeholders.

Civic engagement is key to putting together strategies for revitalizing South Norwalk, police said. And that will take the full participation of residents, police, elected officials, human services organizations, business owners, faith-based organizations and educators.

Armed with that information, the department plans to apply for a Byrne Innovation Grant next spring.

For more information, contact Jeannette Jean Pierre, program manager, by calling (475) 395-3036, or emailing her at jjpierre@norwalkct.org.

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