Dear Mayor Harp,
I am writing this letter to you as a woman who works right here in New Haven. I’m eating leftovers for lunch as I type this, although I’m a terrible cook and prefer to frequent one of downtown’s many fun eateries. Instead, as I eat at my table I think about an incident that happened no more than two doors away from the Grove co-work space, where I was verbally harassed, grabbed, and followed. All on my way to lunch. On a Tuesday, in what is the up-and-coming Ninth Square neighborhood. I can walk to your office and hand deliver this, but honestly, I’m nervous to go outside more than I should now.
Mayor Harp, you’ve been a tremendous advocate for our city’s development, but as you continue to push for new business to set roots in New Haven, I implore you to consider what happens after that business moves in. The blocks must be conducive to keeping people safe. I’m not going to argue against anyone’s right to free speech despite how disgusting some of those sentiments might be, but when I shared my story to other women not only at my co-work space, but other New Haven offices, I received a chorus of ‘me too’, especially with following and grabbing. This isn’t right.
I was rattled by being verbally harassed but not surprised. It’s a daily occurrence. I ignored it, as I often do, even though it was disgusting. However, this man did not take kindly to be ignored. I was terrified once his tone changed from crude to intrusive, and he followed me for a block. Instead of walking to lunch, I detoured and spoke to a very professional police officer at the offices right on the corner of Church and Chapel, and he empathized. But, as he sadly proclaimed, there was little to do short of having someone walk the ‘problem’ blocks of Chapel Street between Temple and State streets. He knows it’s a problem. Other officers know it’s a problem. Incidents are being reported, but absolutely nothing has changed. Requests and incident reports on SeeClickFix aren’t typically responded to.
I realize there are unfortunately dozens of other criminal matters happening every hour in New Haven, and we’re at a shortage of officers. My incident is the past now, but I don’t know what will greet me when I walk to my car a block away on State Street.
Please note that this letter is not another request to move the bus stops off Chapel Street, either. This is a request to prevent loitering and harassment through awareness and stricter enforcement of a harassment policy, or creation of a dedicated law that is publicized on the ‘problem street’ that my office is located on. I would be more than happy to introduce you to a few women who would also share their stories, and even men too, who just want to be able to walk three blocks to a restaurant at lunch. We want to work in New Haven, but New Haven needs to be a safe place also.
Thank you for your consideration,