From opinion pieces and web videos to speeches and conversations with voters on the trail, I have made combating crime in the Queen City a centerpiece of my campaign for mayor.
Today, I am formally outlining my plan to help fix it if elected in November.
Crime is spiking throughout our city as residents are rightfully fearful when visiting downtown or are out in their own neighborhoods. That is unacceptable. We must have a serious conversation about the issues of crime and accept that the status quo is not working. The situation in Manchester is no better today than it was two years ago. In fact, it has gotten worse.
If given the honor of leading the Queen City, I look forward to working with our brave law enforcement officials, our department heads, and a bi-partisan group of city and state leaders to implement these initiatives. We must come together to solve spiking crime in Manchester before it is too late.
Reform the Safe Station Program
While the goals of the city’s Safe Station are laudable and it has some important successes worth highlighting, it must be significantly reformed as we move forward in our battle against the opioid and homeless epidemic. Over 50 percent of those individuals coming to the Safe Station are from outside of Manchester. When many of these individuals exit the Safe Station, they return to a life of addiction and remain in Manchester as a part of our ever-growing homeless population. It is unfair and unsustainable for Queen City first responders and taxpayers to have to accept the financial ramifications and endure the city-wide public health and safety concerns resulting from the current program.
As an Assistant Majority Leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, I foresaw the problems coming to Manchester as a result of the current Safe Station model. I introduced legislation to allow for Manchester to bill other cities and towns when their residents come to our Safe Station. Regrettably, Mayor Joyce Craig never once went to Concord to support it.
As the city’s next mayor, I will work closely with Governor Chris Sununu and the state legislature to finally pass legislation that would allow Manchester to bill cities and towns when their residents utilize Manchester’s Safe Station program. I would also bring together leaders throughout our city to discuss and implement a thorough review of what is and what is not working in the current system.
More Neighborhood Police
Manchester needs to hire and deploy more beat cops, and we need to do a better job connecting police officers to specific neighborhoods.
Our police should be an integral part of the communities they serve. Stronger relationships and improved trust between citizens and officers will result in residents being more willing to report suspicious activity and engage with officers on a more consistent basis.
While I do support some forms of bail reform, I was one of the early voices against the existing law, which went too far and lacks accountability. The current law created a catch and release system, which has had a profoundly negative impact on our city that we see playing out on the streets of Manchester every day.
I have been working with Governor Chris Sununu and other legislators regarding this issue and will continue to do so as mayor.
Give Businesses Expanded Control Over Their Sidewalk Space
Manchester already allows businesses to utilize the sidewalks from April through mid-October. That must be expanded to include additional designated days on a year-round basis. Businesses, especially those downtown, that have control over their sidewalks will have better opportunities to reach new customers and will ensure that the sidewalks are well-maintained.
Enact Tough Anti-Loitering Laws
Manchester needs to strongly enforce ordinances and support our law enforcement officers in deterring individuals from sitting or lying down on sidewalks that are in designated areas of our business districts. Similar curfew ordinances need to be enforced in parks and other public areas throughout our city.
Amplify Public Information Campaign to Discourage Giving to Panhandlers
While panhandling on the street is a constitutional exercise of free speech, Manchester should build on and amplify existing public information campaigns through signage and social media to discourage people from giving to panhandlers.
The campaign should include information about how residents and visitors can instead make contributions to non-profits that effectively serve the needs of the homeless.
End Panhandling at Intersections
Panhandling laws that make it illegal to accept charitable contributions, even if they were not standing in the roadway, were ruled unconstitutional.
Other cities have enacted a simple ordinance that has proven effective and constitutional: Make it illegal for motorists to pass anything out of the window of a vehicle currently in the roadway. When drivers are no longer allowed to give to panhandlers, the panhandlers move on.
Panhandling in the roadway is a public safety issue, first and foremost.
Clean Up Graffiti, Vandalism, and Blight
We need to be able to take pride in our city once again. Our process for reporting and getting graffiti cleaned up is antiquated and needs updating. Residents know their communities best and need to be better empowered to easily identify and report graffiti immediately through a simple, downloadable app that is more user-friendly than the current one. The city’s cleanup response time should be immediately available to the citizen and any reported graffiti should be removed within days of its report date.
We must actively engage between city and state departments for areas of jurisdiction that overlap between departments and better encourage public-private partnerships for trash clean-ups in targeted areas that are most impacted.
Victoria Sullivan is a candidate for mayor in the upcoming municipal election.