Acre Gunfire Erupts After Council Discusses Solutions with Mayor, Police Chief

Haverhill Police Detective Richard Welch investigating a 2017 shooting report. (WHAV News photograph.)

Detective Richard Welch, who was praised by Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, conducts an investigation following reports of gunfire on Seventh Avenue. (WHAV News photograph.)

Just after Haverhill City Councilors heard a report about four recent shooting incidents in the Acre neighborhood, police were called to Seventh Avenue for reports of gunfire.

While details were not immediately available, police placed crime scene tape around several properties and cars, while detectives investigated and bicycle patrols watched over the area. WHAV will report on developments as they become available.

Admitting it’s not possible to “arrest our way out of the situation,” city officials agree the answer to reducing or eliminating gang activity is providing young people alternatives to a criminal lifestyle.

Responding to a recent wave of gang-related shootings in Haverhill’s Acre neighborhood, police Chief Alan R. DeNaro told City Council Tuesday the best deterrent to a teenager joining a gang is a job.

“If we had the ability to seriously hire some of these kids on a part-time basis and put them to work, I think that’s going to help us,” DeNaro said. “It’s a lot cheaper than when we have to prosecute a kid.”

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he will form a Gang Task Force in the coming weeks, and wants members to put an emphasis on finding opportunities to keep young people busy and off the streets. Fiorentini said his goal is two-fold, keeping kids from joining gangs, and helping them to get out.

The mayor said it’s important to create a plan to give kids who’ve been arrested the a second chance. He suggested recruiting volunteers who live in the neighborhood to mentor at-risk teens.

Fiorentini said he’s talked to labor union representatives about setting up trade apprenticeships, and indicated city department heads could also arrange to employ teens over the summer.

“A kid gets a summer job, that’s nice, but we need something that turns into a longterm opportunity,” Fiorentini said.

Council President John A. Michitson said the mayor and police chief have good ideas for short-term solutions, but the violence won’t end without systemic change, including good jobs at every level, a housing plan, and improvements in public education, especially for the bottom third of the student population.

“It’s hard because we know where they live, what they’re living with and what they’re living under,” Michitson said of the students who are having trouble in school.

DeNaro estimated there are between 325 and 375 gang members who move among the communities of the Merrimack Valley and Greater Haverhill.

When enforcement gets hot in Lawrence, for instance, gang activity increases in Haverhill. DeNaro said people might be surprised to learn that the gangs are also active in suburban communities, including Merrimac, Amesbury and Salisbury.

The chief said most of the gang activity in Haverhill is connected to two gangs, which he declined to identify, saying he did not want to give them attention or notoriety.

Four shootings in the Acre since July 1 had “gang overtones,” DeNaro said. In all, seven people were shot on Cedar Street and one on Pentucket Street over the course of two months. None of the suspects would identify their attackers, the chief said, which is common with gang-related crimes and makes them especially difficult to solve.

While the mayor and police chief say policing isn’t the solution to the problem of gang violence in any of Haverhill’s neighborhoods, it is an important component.

In July, DeNaro increased police patrols in the Acre, adding uniformed officers on foot, on bicycles and in patrol cars. After the most recent shooting on Aug. 26, he increased them again.

The chief said he has redeployed narcotics detectives and members of a specialized overdose response unit to patrol the neighborhood.

In fact, a foot patrol was only two or three blocks away when the triple shooting on Cedar Street occurred.

City Councilor Andy X. Vargas said residents of the neighborhood are comforted by the increased police presence.

“A good chunk of my family lives in the Acre, and they feel safer,” Vargas said.

DeNaro hopes to increase the number of Haverhill officers to its full complement of 104. Currently, there are 10 vacancies with an 11th coming in two weeks when another officer plans to retire.

The chief said he expects a Civil Service list to be available this week, and he promises to waste no time in selecting candidates.

While he’s not a fan of Civil Service, DeNaro said one benefit is that it requires the city to consider qualified residents before others. As a result, the majority of the officers in Haverhill live in Haverhill. The chief does, too.

“It’s our community. We have a vested interest in the city rising to the level that we know it can reach,” DeNaro said. “I look forward to the day that people in Ward Hill and Bradford say they live in Haverhill.”

16 thoughts on “Acre Gunfire Erupts After Council Discusses Solutions with Mayor, Police Chief

  1. I watched the council meeting. Mitchison seems bitter he’s not mayor. But what stood out is that DeNaro is the smartest politician in the room. Over $275 k a year and everyone breaks their arms throwing roses at him because he drove 2 miles to say nothing.

  2. As Duncan said, this is why politicians suck. These shootings etc are not an ‘economic’ issue. These criminals are not acting out because taxes are too high, they can’t pay their rent, or there are too many potholes. This is a BEHAVIORAL issue – grown out of a sense on both entitlement and lack of a embedded moral compass.

    You don’t reward bad behavior, you punish it to the full extent of the law – and tie it to loss of entitlement. If you commit crimes against the state and you are simultaneously collecting benefits from the state – your household should lose those benefits – if not all at once, then partially, until in has become immensely evident your lack of acceptable behavior is directly tied to your ability to receive any benefits moving forward.

    If you’re an elected official in Massachusetts and try to implement such plans, the democratic machine will ensure you never get re-elected – it’s about votes – and keeping the weak weak, making excuses, and ensuring the plantation continues.

    It is as been said, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

    • I’m not totally convinced of all you said Mr. Chairman ( Democratic machine…)BUT very, very, well argued. You are spot on on a number of points. Your comments are cause for thought. Kudos.

        • Thank you Sir – and you as well have always been well expressed here. I’m sure we’ve disagreed at times as well, but I have nothing but respect for your sincere advocacy.

      • Thank you Notredame – I’m happy you agree with some of what I stated, and I’m fine that you disagree as well. That’s how things get better in the city – people disagree, work together, build consensus and solve problems.

        I actually had some serious thought about running for a city council seat this year or the near future – but I’m not convinced my somewhat conservative bent and independent leaning would lend itself well to our local electorate.

        I walked away from party politics a few years ago as I see no real delineation between the parties any longer – the parties work to serve themselves over the people they should be representing, I would not work that way – so I’m left with some deep thought and tempered hope. But at some point I may get mad and determined enough to do it.

        Maybe at some time in the future I could be an asset to the city, and would welcome people to help me like you, Jack, Duncan, and Political Madman.

        In the interim, WHAV does a fantastic job of keeping an open forum here for people to speak their minds, and I appreciate it very much.

        Have a wonderful day my friend.

  3. “It’s our community. We have a vested interest in the city rising to the level that we know it can reach,” DeNaro said. “I look forward to the day that people in Ward Hill and Bradford say they live in Haverhill.”

    BEST COMMENT EVER! It will never happen. They can use our tax dollars, but will never admit the majority of their funding comes from Haverhill Home Owners and they are a part of our town. They really should get their own officials and monies and see how long the town lasts.

    • Yes it was ! But it is worse really. Because you also have Ayers Village, Rocks Village, and Riverside among others. The City is divided even more nowadays as people go “outward” not “inward”, to Salem, or Plaistow, or North Andover, Newburyport, ect.

  4. What Haverhill is experiencing is the end result of decades of liberal public policy playing itself out.

    How many of these kids were raised in single parent households supported exclusively by multiple forms of welfare…WIC, EBT, Housing stipends?
    How many of these kids are children of criminal trespassers in the country illegally?
    How many of these kids are selling drugs coming to Haverhill by criminal illegals?
    Where is the long term employment to come from when Obama era tax policies have shipped jobs to other countries?
    Why would unions help a competing sector for jobs when union hacks give out jobs on a family and friends basis?
    How many of these kids, and their parents, ever took responsibility for their education?

    More liberal government intervention isn’t the solution to this problem, it is the problem!

  5. Andy Vargas said, “residents of the neighborhood are comforted by the increased police presence.” If he is so influential in The Acre, why doesn’t HE put a lid on this bad behavior?

  6. Mayor Jimmy mouthing the same words of 30 years ago. This is why career politicians suck, they become so entrenched with their fellow Party Members and sycophants, that as the years pass, life and the world around them changes – they do not. The political class in Massachusetts is a perfect example of this, and in general, display the routine hypocrisy that is common of such career pols while remaining protected.

    Global trade, technology, legal cheap foreign labor (H-1B/H-2B), and illegals willing to work for a fraction of the cost under-the-table are all reasons that contribute to teens and young adults who can no longer be employed. Teen employment in general has seen the most dramatic effect in job opportunities, and the high school graduates with no education or skill are simply not needed as much.

    That’s before the poor and uneducated demographic Mayor Jimmy and friends want to attract. Easy to manipulate the masses when you want to import such, dangle a carrot in exchange for votes or sympathy, been working wonders in this state. Of course, they vote against their own interests, like the Invaders who were charged with rape, not only were they living in the city openly, the Invader was illegally working for a local roofing company. So not only was he not paying taxes, he was also replacing an American in a what may have been a decent paying job. The company of course is just at fault as the officials who pander to Invaders for hiring the Invader over an American, but that’s what Mayor Jimmy and friends wants, that’s what Mayor Jimmy friends get.

    • Well said. Also, i could have sworn I saw the Mayor take credit for the unemployment rate being so low in the city. Where then will you find the jobs you want these kids to have ? The answer is right under our nose.

  7. Until the Mayor changes leadership at the Haverhill Police Department nothing will change. Chief Denaro did his job, but his time has come and gone. Its time for a new generation of leadership atop the Haverhill Police Department. This department simply cant solve cases such as the murder in Bradford. Unfortunately for the resident of Haverhill, Mayor Tax Man will not act and change the leadership and the direction of the Haverhill Police Department. It will take a new Mayor to hire a new Chief to change the direction as this Mayor has gone stale and stopped caring about the leadership at HPD the lack of.