Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jun 2000
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2000, New Haven Register
Contact:  http://www.ctcentral.com/cgi-bin/w3com/start?ctcentral+FrontPage
Forum: http://www.ctcentral.com/
Author: Rebecca Baker

AMENTO ORDERS UNDERCOVER DRUG AGENTS TO VACATE COMMUNITY CENTER OFFICE

HAMDEN  Mayor Carl Amento is ordering undercover drug agents out of
their office at the M.L. Keefe Community Center by Friday  a move
that has angered neighbors and frustrated police officials.

Amento sent a letter to Police Chief Robert Nolan earlier this month
telling him to move the Hamden Street Crime Unit by the end of the
month.

The Street Crime Unit consists of six undercover officers who
investigate drug activity throughout town, focusing on southern
Hamden. The unit moved from police headquarters into a second-floor
office at the Keefe Center, 11 Pine St., more than 10 years ago.

Amento said he wants to use all the space in the Pine Street building
to revitalize youth, senior and community programs.

"We do not feel that the Street Crime Unit is compatible with such
uses as a child-care center," Amento said in a written statement.

A community policing unit also has office space at the Keefe
Center.

"The Community Police Unit does not present the same issues and will
remain at Keefe until a substation nearby is established," Amento said.

Nolan now must find space in the small, cramped police headquarters
building for the unit. He said the unit does an "excellent job"
fighting crime largely because they work in the same neighborhood
where their informants live.

"The big busts ... have been because of Street Crime being in that
location," Nolan said. "They (informants) don't want to be seen
walking inside a police building."

The move has outraged Paul Jacques, Democratic Town Committee chairman
for the 2nd District, who lives about a mile away from the Keefe Center.

"I have petitions ready to go," he said. "I'll picket Town Hall if I
have to, and I'll get 100 people to join me."

Jacques said he feels safer knowing Cahill and his officers are close
by at night. The Street Crime Unit works mainly from 4 p.m. to midnight.

"There were no meetings about it, nothing for the public," Jacques
said. "The community is going to feel like they've been deceived."

Jacques said Amento has agreed to meet with him to discuss the matter.
Jacques said the Street Crime Unit has "held strong" against crime in
southern Hamden, and believes moving the officers poses a safety risk.

"It's telling any drug dealer to set up shop," he said. "If he's
saying they should leave because they carry guns in the building,
that's the lamest excuse I've ever heard in my life."

Keefe center Director Vanna Francia said she was "surprised" upon
hearing of Amento's decision.

"I get the sense that people in the neighborhood want a strong police
presence 24 hours a day," she said.

"They do most of their work late at night, after we
leave,"

Street Crime Unit leader Sgt. Steve Cahill also said he doesn't
understand Amento's decision.

"We've been there (at Keefe) for 10 years and there's never been a
problem," he said. "We get along good with all the people in there."
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