Following Recent Violence, Behavioral Response Unit to Soon Join Haverhill Police

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro addresses the School Committee in 2018 with Haverhill Police Officer Scott Ziminski. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Three months after Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro asked for a social worker to help police, his wish was granted Friday after two high-profile incidents of violence which may have mental health causes.

When he appeared before the City Council in December, DeNaro cited suicides, drug overdoses, domestic violence, runaways and other situations where a social worker would be helpful in defusing immediate problems and getting help for individuals as well. Last week, DeNaro renewed his call for help. (See earlier WHAV story.)

“These last two high-profile cases we had—both the homicide and the victims who ran down on Liberty Street—fall into the realm of a behavioral response unit…to reach them in hopes of preventing these things,” DeNaro told WHAV.

Those incidents involve 35-year-old Diecryk Garcia, accused of murdering John Rosado with a metal pipe last week, and Jake T. Kavanaugh, accused of running down two women with his car twice and then attacking one with a box cutter on March 3.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he expects to use pandemic relief money from the recently approved American Rescue Plan Act to pay for the program.

“This is an ideal time to do it. So many people are stressed out because of the pandemic. I’ve always been interested and the American Rescue Plan gives us a means to do it,” the mayor said.

Haverhill city councilors endorsed the police chief’s idea in December and asked Fiorentini to pay for it. DeNaro told the Council he discussed the idea with Lahey Clinic who estimated the cost would likely be about $75,000 per year.

DeNaro said he is issuing a request for proposals for the mental health services. He noted, that since a contractor would provide the services, there would be no city pensions, sick time or workers compensation.

“It’s a low cost to get the program up and running. The public wants these kinds of programs, and to pull officers back,” the chief said.

Components of a program could involve following up after initial incidents Raise a red flag. “We want to know who’s dangerous, who’s not dangerous,” he explained.

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