NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Fair Haven neighbors in New Haven are fighting back against violence and crime by taking over a parking lot along East Pearl Street.
"I love this neighborhood," said Karen DuBois-Walton, one of the organizers. "There are wonderful things happening. But it's also a neighborhood where we've seen an increase in street level dealing, we've seen an increase in sex work, we've seen unfortunately what feels like a decrease in community policing."
Community members have started gathering in the parking lot, pulling up chairs to socialize, play games, and watch performances in an effort to reclaim the area with positivity.
According to organizers, the parking lot in front of Grand Cafe has been the site of several incidents, including the shooting of a 32-year-old man earlier this month.
"It's been hard. It's been really traumatic," said Sarah Miller, one of the organizers. "We drove by and my 10-year-old from the back seat said don't tell me it's another shooting."
Organizers say each night draws in anywhere from 10 to 50 people and it's already started to spark conversations about change among members of the community.
"Ways that we can improve the space, clean up the garbage, more lighting. The city was here trimming the trees so there's just been more attention brought to this area and trying to make some of the changes that we need to make for the community," Miller said.
Organizers have also been focusing their attention on the Grand Cafe, claiming it draws in problems. The owner of the bar spoke to FOX61 off-camera. He said, the bar itself is not the issue and whatever happens outside, is out of their control. Signs hung up outside of the bar condemn violence and describe the bar as "fun, happiness, and joy."
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Neighbors taking over the parking lot want to send the clear message that anything other than that won't be tolerated.
"People are just really happy to be able to do something and do it with their neighbors in a way that feels safe and positive and constructive," Miller said.
Neighbors plan to occupy the parking lot every night from 6 to 8, through the end of the month.
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