Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro embraces plan to Love The Ave

By Steven Froias // For Love The Ave

Joseph Cordeiro’s eyes narrow and his voice becomes emphatic as he says, “People in New York, people in Boston, people everywhere want this – and we have it here!”

The passion is aroused by the North End, New Bedford neighborhood surrounding Acushnet Avenue. Densely populated, walkable, and home to the unique commercial corridor affectionately called “The Ave.”

It has a fabled past as place of enterprise in this city. And, it’s still home to an astounding number of small business, eateries, historic architecture and community organizations.

But, its reputation has suffered in recent decades. Even though it it has been revitalizing itself over the last several years thanks to its dedicated residential and business community, largely of Portuguese heritage, and enterprising Hispanic, Latino, and Guatemalan newcomers.

Still, the complex challenges of a modern post-industrial city, as well as lingering negative perceptions, persist.

That’s why City of New Bedford Chief of Police Joseph Cordeiro is on The Ave on a Monday afternoon, talking about an all-out collaborative effort which seeks to confront those challenges and help redefine this neighborhood.

Coreiro is at ease and at home as enters the popular bakery, Chocolate com Pimenta on The Ave just north of Holly Street. Outside, he has checked in with a department police officer on construction detail. Inside, he is welcomed by bakery staff in Portuguese and responds in kind.

After exchanging pleasantries and inquiring on friends and family, he settles down into an interview to discuss the New Bedford Police Department’s role in the Near North End Partnership, facilitated by the United Way of Greater New Bedford’s Community Connections Coalition.

That coalition has identified an area of the Near North End as a place of special need. Its boundaries are from Coggeshall Street to Coffin Avenue, and Belleville Avenue to Brooks Street.

The action plan envisions utilizing the resources of the city’s municipal, social and health resources to tackle a myriad of issues – including addressing its safety and security concerns. As they write on the United Way website, “the Near North End Partnership is a multi-disciplinary team of individuals and organizations to address some of the challenges and build on strengths and assets to improve the quality of life within a struggling area of the city.”

Chief Cordeiro explains that, for the department, that means patrol officers working in concert with clinicians, health service providers, landlords, and business owners to help resolve problems – and try to address the root cause of issues that arise in the community.

“For example, we spoke to a group of Guatemalan men who told us about their security concerns,” he says. “They told us that security cameras on their streets contribute to a safer environment.”

Accordingly, in addition to the $200,000 worth of cameras deployed in target areas around the city, another $200.000 worth are scheduled to be installed, with a focus on target areas like this one.

Another part of the plan is working with landlords to make them aware of the opportunity and responsibility that comes with property ownership. Proper maintenance and better tenant screening means fewer problem properties – and less need for a patrol car to visit.

“We are speaking with the community to identify needs,” he continues, “and determine how we can best address those needs. Our goal is to help create an environment where every resident – whether they are a tenant, landlord, business owner or student – can achieve their own success.”

Complex social issues like the opioid epidemic, the lack of adequate mental health services, and the failure of the country to enact meaningful immigration reform often get laid at a police department’s doorstep. Not just in New Bedford, but across the nation.

Progressive departments are adapting by blending old-fashioned policing with 21st collaborations – like the kind being created with the Near North End Partnership.

Cordeiro cautions that change “won’t happen overnight, and we’ll make some mistakes along the way.”

But, he says the New Bedford Police Department is committed to this plan for the Near North End and expects transformative results that will create a new template for policing in the entire city.

In the end, it’s all about “building relationships,” he says, and creating a “safe place where people are proud to live.”

  • For more information on NBCCC and how to become involved in the coalition, please contact Stan Brajer at sbrajer@unitedwayofgnb.org or (508)-994-4521 x106.