Haverhill Council to Further Study Group Homes After Tire-Slashing Attack; Neighbors in Fear

Haverhill City Council. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill city councilors and neighbors expressed frustration Tuesday night with a lack of emergency contacts and supervision of a Westland Terrace group home that saw one of its tenants arrested for allegedly using a steak knife to slash a dozen neighbors’ tires.

Saltonstall Road resident Daniel Robertson told councilors a neighbor walking his dog encountered the tenant and luckily escaped harm.

“There was that outside possibility that this could have been more than property damage,” he said.

Robertson said three cars in his family had tires slashed and he expressed worries about the safety of 11 children who live within 200 feet of the group home and another 12 on adjacent streets. “We understand that mental health patients need help and deserve a supportive environment. Nobody is saying ‘shut it down.’”

As WHAV was the first to report, police said 31-year-old Patrick Tierney of 20 Westland Terrace walked up to cars in driveways July 5 and punctured all four tires on each car. He also knocked over several plants and planters and a mailbox during the alleged crime spree.

Neighbor Laura Wrisley, who said she has three children under the age of 10 and lives two doors away from the home, called on Vinfen to provide emergency contact information.

Vinfen’s Sophie Jones said her company will cooperate with a Council-led inquiry into state rules governing group homes. Jones said Vinfen’s role in this case is mostly as a landlord with no on-site staff, but certain services are provided to the eight adult residents each month. The company took over the residence in 2012.

Haverhill Police Capt. Robert P. Pistone brought the matter to the City Council, saying the arrested man suffered a “mental health crisis.” While he called Vinfen responsive and the incident the only one where violence was reported, Pistone said, police have been called to the home 213 times since 1999. In the last three years, there were 64 police calls—21 so far this year—mostly for medical and mental health reasons.

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan summed up Council sentiment. “Based on the number of calls, the state is failing miserably and something needs to be done. We’ve been waiting a long time for that to happen.”

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua called on Vinfen to staff the home around the clock. Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien, a nurse case manager, noted mental health issues may occur in any home at any age, but she is also conflicted over the matter.

Councilors sent the matter to its Public Safety Committee and asked the city’s legislative delegation to bring back answers from the different state agencies that regulate group homes.

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