The Birchcrest Drive home in Southington provides supervision for girls who have been removed from home by the state Department of Children and Families or those who do not have a home. Most often, the girls are sent into foster care in two months or less.
Emergency calls involving the home have led town officials to consider an ordinance that would charge a fee for excessive police calls, in an effort to recoup the costs of the frequent police responses.
There have been complaints from neighbors and town officials about the frequency of calls from the home, typically for runaway children and other problems.
Cheryl Lounsbury, a former town councilor who is chairwoman of the Ordinance Review Committee, has said she doesn’t want to discourage residents from calling police but feels the number of calls coming from the group home needs to be addressed.
Margaret Hann, the executive director of the Bridge Family Center on Birchcrest Drive, told the Record-Journal recently that police calls from the home are on the decline, and that there have been “great efforts” to reduce the disruption to the town and neighbors. “We will continue to be good neighbors,” she said. “We will continue to keep the lines of communication open.”
Deputy Police Chief William Palmieri, who is putting together a report on calls from the group home, as well as other locations, says the situation at the group home has improved.
Keeping the lines of communication open, and continuing to recognize the special situations the group home deals with, appears to be the preferable way of going forward, particularly given that the situation seems to be improving.
That’s certainly preferable to adopting an ordinance that would in effect offer punishment to what is deemed excessive when it comes to emergency calls. As Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner noted, an ordinance could have a “chilling effect” on people calling the police.
While the frustration of neighbors is certainly understandable, an ordinance at this time is simply going too far. Far better is the increased understanding of the special situation at the group home and greater participation of the town in the effort to handle it.