Cops, community beautify a once-desolate strip

NEW HAVEN (WTNH) — Shovels, rakes and garden hoes aren’t the tools you’re used to seeing cops in uniform handle, but that’s what it took for Friday’s project at hand.

“Doing garden work is therapeutic,” said Sgt. Shafiq Abdussabur, Newhallville District Commander of New Haven Police. “So they technically almost got the day off.”

Far from a day off for these officers, it took plenty of elbow grease to break the soil that has been packed down by countless years of neglect and foot traffic. Cops and community volunteers broke ground outside the Newhallville police substation, digging up all kinds of trapped rocks and even old bricks in the small patch of soil between the sidewalk and street. The goal; trying to make the area a little more pleasing to the eye.

“Newhallville deserves the same thing that every other well-designed, well-developed neighborhood has in the country,” Abdussabur said.

A collaboration of people, neighbors and non-profits provided the tools, the talent and the materials to bring some life to the once desolate strip at Winchester and Hazel Street.

“How beautiful it is, the physical condition in the neighborhood, these all matter because it improves the quality of life for people living there,” said Adam Rawlings, a community engagement officer with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.

Abdussabur calls this the next level of community policing; neighborhood-specific community engagement. It’s something Interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell is pushing, and gives his full blessing.

“(I told him) we were going to be planting mums, because it’s time to plant mums,” Abdussabur said with a hearty laugh.

After nearly two hours of toil, the fall plantings were ready to take root. A simple gesture, with a deeper meaning. That this isn’t just a cold substation, but a welcoming place, where over 20 New Haven police officers consider it a second home.

“We can’t expect community to be stakeholders in their community if we won’t be ourselves,” Abdussabur said.

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