Thanks to a new $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Cops Hiring Program, the Meriden Police Department will soon hire four new officers. Three of those positions will enhance the MPD’s community policing program. The fourth will be a detective responsible for investigating internet crimes against children.
According to Deputy Chief of Police Timothy Topulos, who was instrumental in acquiring the grant, the award will “bolster and expand on the success of the Neighborhood Initiative Unit.”
That unit, known as NIU, is the city’s community-based policing program, launched in 2005 to focus resources on inner-city areas with the highest rates of crime. These core areas, which take up a large percentage of MPD resources, have more than their fair share of gang activity, violence, drug dealing, and property decay, leading to an atmosphere of fear. The NIU works hand-in-hand with citizens and city agencies to improve the quality of life for people in those areas. That means having a strong police presence in those neighborhoods and getting the people who live there to trust and work closely with the police to prevent and report crime, Tupolos said.
The grant will fund three new NIU positions:
1) A downtown district officer to deal with parking, loitering, blight and other issues in the downtown business district. In addition, this officer will serve as a floater, covering for other NIU officers when they are out on leave. He or she may also be called on to provide supplemental coverage in areas that experience a sudden spike in crime.
2) A code enforcement officer who will work with city officials to enforce anti-blight ordinances and health, housing, fire and zoning codes.
3) An additional supervisor to allow coverage on both day and night shifts. There is currently only one supervisor in the NIU.
The fourth position to be paid for by the grant will be a detective for the Special Crimes Unit. This detective will be dedicated to investigating internet crimes against children, such as cyber bullying. The detective will also manage compliance with the sexual offenders’ registry.
The grant will pay for the salaries and benefits of the four new officers for three full years. As a condition of the grant, the city will have to continue those positions for at least 12 months after the grant period ends, Topulos said.