New Bedford city councilor pushes for safety summit amid spike in crime

New Bedford City Councilman Brian Gomes has resubmitted his motion for a public safety summit after a spike in violent crime. (WJAR)

New Bedford City Councilman Brian Gomes has resubmitted his motion for a public safety summit after a spike in violent crime.

“We’re going to refer that motion to Appointments and Briefings, where I’m the chairman,” Gomes said.

Gomes originally requested the summit in June and said he has been waiting patiently on the Public Safety Committee to organize it with no luck.

Gomes, a former president of the committee himself and 26-year veteran of the City Council, said he has seen crime increase through his tenure.

“The last time a public safety summit was called was probably back in the ‘90s,” he said. “We’re right back in the same boat. This is not a boat I want to be in. I want a comprehensive plan of action.”

According to statistics released by the New Bedford Police Department, violent crime dropped 20 percent from 2015 to 2016:

  • 5 homicides in 2015; 3 in 2016
  • 46 rapes in 2015; 36 in 2016
  • 272 reported robberies in 2015; 254 in 2016

Despite statistics showing positive growth, Gomes said it is time to take action against those on the wrong side of the law.

“We’re going to do what we have to do to get you off the streets so the tranquility, the peace and family living can go on in the city of New Bedford, and we can prosper as a good city, and a city not known for crime,” he said.

Gomes said law enforcement and city leaders must be strategic and safe.

“Walking and knocking I do not support -- not in a high crime neighborhood. It jeopardizes our police department,” he said.

Mayor Jon Mitchell spent time with the department this summer, reaching out to the community and walking around neighborhoods.

“Those kinds of efforts over time build trust. It’s community policing,” Mitchell said. “It allows police to get better information.”

Gomes grew up in the North End of the city and said he has seen first-hand what children and adolescents witness.

“The people need some hope in some of these areas, so to see the mayor and to see a city councilor out there, that’s good,” he said.

Gomes said it’s not only up to law enforcement to help the city, as he believes civilian help is essential, too. He said residents are often scared to speak up.

“’Snitching’ has been a tool used by criminals. ‘You’re a snitch, you’re no good,’” Gomes explained. “That’s not the situation. You want to save a life. You know that somebody has a gun and there may be a crime possibly committed. You have to report that to police.”

Gomes said if residents do not want to contact authorities, they can reach out to their representative, who will contact the proper authorities.

The long-time councilor said while he believes it’s good that more police are patrolling “high-crime” areas, he doesn’t want that to be the case always because it takes protection away from other areas.

Gomes said police watch over areas of the city’s North End after a bullet recently hit an innocent man sitting in his Tallman Street apartment. In June, a 23-year-old man died after being shot in the head in the city’s South End.

“The crime has hit most of the city. I don’t care if its break and enterings, assaults, robberies, gun charges -- it continues,” he said. “Something has to be done so the quality of life for the people in this area that live here, the good people, can continue to live in has a prosperous life just like others across the city.”

Local and state law enforcement and organizations will be invited to attend the public safety summit, including Dartmouth Police, Massachusetts State Police and more.

“The D.A.’s Office will attend and is happy to participate in the summit,” District Attorney Thomas Quinn said in a statement.

NBC 10 reached out to the Public Safety Committee and is waiting on a response.

Gomes hopes to hold the summit in August.

To leave an anonymous tip with the New Bedford Police Department, call 508-961-4584 or text CALL50 to 274637 and wait for a reply.

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