SOUTHINGTON — The director of a Birchcrest Drive group home said police calls from the home are on the decline and added that “great efforts” have been made to reduce disruption to the town and neighbors.
Margaret Hann, executive director of the Bridge Family Center, said she was “at a loss” to explain why town officials are considering an ordinance that would charge for excessive police calls.
“They can’t do that. There are other towns that have tried to do that,” Hann said.
The group home has spent “tens of thousands of dollars” adding security and privacy measures.
“We’re not going anywhere — we’re not,” Hann said. “We will continue to be good neighbors. We will continue to keep the lines of communication open.”
The ordinance review committee discussed how to define excessive calls, potential legal liability, and enforcement at a meeting Wednesday.
Cheryl Lounsbury, committee chairwoman, said she doesn’t want to discourage victims from calling police, but also wants to address the number of police calls by the group home.
The Birchcrest Drive home provides around-the- clock supervision for girls who have been removed from a home by the state Department of Children and Families or who don't have a home. Most often they're sent into foster care in two months or less. Bridge Family Center is a subcontractor of the state Department of Children and Families.
Neighbors and town officials have complained that police are called frequently for runaway children and other problems.
Deputy Police Chief William Palmieri is compiling a report on calls from the group home as well as other locations. He agreed the situation at the group home has improved.
“They are trending down,” he said.
While frequent calls are a drain on resources and tie up officers, Palmieri said the department has responded to all calls from the group home.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner said she was concerned about the town’s liability if an ordinance went into effect that might have a “chilling effect” on people calling the police. Town officials said research is required before any ordinance is drafted.
Birchcrest Drive residents at the meeting supported the proposed ordidnance.
Bob Sargeant said he feels there is inadequate supervision of the group home and too many calls to the police.
“We need to go through with this with some teeth in it,” he said of the ordinance.
Robert Dailey, another neighbor, supports the ordinance and told committee members that the group has “ruined our life.”