WOONSOCKET – A $244,188 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to fund security improvements at Morin Heights, including a new camera system and traffic enforcement on Morin Heights Boulevard.
Woonsocket Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Moreau said during a meeting last Thursday, Sept. 16, that he and Security Director Roger Biron applied for the grant in May and learned about the award the previous week. In 2010, he said, HUD awarded a similar grant for improvements at the Veterans Memorial development.
“This money will be used here at Morin Heights. That’s almost half a million dollars in security upgrades that HUD has awarded us,” he said.
The grant will be used primarily to fund a new security camera system at Morin Heights. The current system, he said, only has four security cameras around the development. The new system will be similar to the one at Veterans Memorial and include 50 or more cameras along with a 24-hour monitoring station.
In addition to the security cameras, Moreau said he’s also looking to install speed-monitoring devices that would alert drivers of their speed while driving through the development. The devices, which do not have the capacity to issue speeding tickets, he said, would be similar to a “smart device” that was recently set up on Morin Heights Boulevard.
“It’s just going to give us an indication of when we should ask the police department to give us some enforcement,” he said.
Moreau told The Breeze he’s also interested in installing a third type of camera, the Flock Safety license plate-reading cameras recently installed around the city by the Woonsocket Police Department. Those cameras, which have the ability to alert police about vehicles previously involved with crimes, are currently in a trial run and have been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Moreau said he plans to wait and see what happens with the city’s cameras before requesting them at Morin Heights.
In addition to the grant-funded cameras, Moreau said they also plan to invest in other security initiatives not covered by the HUD grant. Those include an additional roving night security officer for all WHA properties.
The improvements come after the WHA Board of Commissioners met with the Woonsocket Police Department last month to discuss security concerns at its properties. Vice Chairman Steven D’Agostino said last Thursday he thinks the WHA needs to step up security to protect residents.
“I’m hoping that we can, along with the police department, take a very proactive approach to bringing law and order to this whole establishment,” he said.
Moreau said WHA administrators met twice in recent weeks with Police Chief Thomas Oates, Deputy Chief Michael Lemoine and Capt. John Picard to discuss the improvements at Morin Heights. While police had initially considered measures such as additional night patrols and substations, he said, data obtained since the first meeting revealed the problem was not as bad as initially thought.
Over the past month, Moreau said, police have responded to four incidents at Morin Heights, including a juvenile offense, a suicidal individual, a suspicious person and one other offense. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 12, he said, the development had 72 emergency calls, including fire and rescue calls.
“The calls for a 300-apartment development were not as much as even the chief or the police department were expecting when they ran the data,” he said.
Moreau said they still plan to monitor the situation and increase parking enforcement on Morin Heights Boulevard. The WHA has repeatedly had problems with illegal parking on the narrow road, which Moreau said poses a safety concern.
“School buses and RIPTA buses are having trouble getting by. We’re worried that a fire truck would have trouble getting by,” he said.