NEW BEDFORD — “I am here to help New Bedford’s Police Department do a better job by gathering information, and one of the most important ways to do that is through stakeholders in the community, like you,” said Alana Ennis of Public Safety Strategies Group to a small audience Wednesday at Fort Taber Community Center.

Since fall, PSSG, a management consulting firm hired by the city, has been holding open and sporadic meetings across parts of New Bedford to gather public perception and opinion on the performance of the Police Department. Ennis, a former police officer for 29 years, said no representatives from the NBPD are present and attendees usually remain anonymous because “we want candid opinions from the public.”

The session began with Ennis asking what police have been doing right. Responses were mostly positive regarding law enforcement. “I think they’re doing a good job on crime. They’re busting drug dealers, getting weapons off the street. It’s the judicial system that needs to keep up. That’s the problem,” said one attendee.

One attendee, who confessed to being a former drug addict, praised the police chief for his humane approach to fighting the opioid crisis, as well as implementing the "walk and talk" program, which has officers taking time out of their shifts to formally engage with people on the street. “Him taking a more personal approach means something to me.”

Despite it being a South End meeting, most public criticism was about the handling of crime in the North End. Participants agreed there should be more regular patrols. A couple of attendees believed more camera surveillance and lights on the streets is needed. “Criminals don’t want either of these in the North End,” said one participant.

One woman criticized the lack of action regarding panhandlers, describing an incident at Market Basket on Coggeshall Street where a man was being overly aggressive. “He came up from behind me and scared me. He was going around asking everyone in the parking lot for money.”

Ennis said this might be the final community meeting hosted by PSSG because they’ve covered all parts of the city. The meetings are part of the process in helping the police department develop a strategic plan for how to address the needs of the changing and growing community.

“Thank you for holding this. You gotta be supportive of the police. It’s a tough position that most of us couldn’t do,” said one attendee.

Regarding public participation, Ennis said her firm fact-checks any crime-related anecdotal information that is recorded from these meetings with police reports. “We need to make sure the stories are truth.”