In wake of restaurant burglary, Manchester alderman announces new group to address downtown issuesBy PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 22. 2018 10:12AM
MANCHESTER — A new working group is being put together by Ward 3 Alderman Tim Baines to tackle issues affecting the “economic vitality” of Manchester’s downtown business district, in response to concerns raised by business owners at a recent roundtable discussion.
Baines announced his plans for the new working group at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, one day after his popular downtown eatery, Mint Bistro, on Elm Street was burglarized in broad daylight Monday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Manchester police said a man charged with attempting to steal items from a furniture truck had confessed to the Bistro burglary.
According to Manchester police Lt. Paul Thompson, officers called to investigate an attempted theft from a Bob’s Furniture delivery truck on Beech Street on Tuesday night said they recognized the alleged thief from surveillance video of the Monday afternoon burglary at Mint Bistro. Calvin Degreenia, 32, confessed to the burglary during an interview after he was booked on charges related to the furniture truck incident, police said.
According to Thompson, officers were called about 5 p.m. to 542 Beech St., where Degreenia was being held by the driver of a Bob’s Furniture delivery truck. Police said Degreenia admitted to an attempted theft from the truck, and during a search, officers said they found he had a taser. According to police, Degreenia is a convicted felon and not allowed to have such a device.
Baines took to Facebook on Wednesday to thank police for quickly closing the case.
“Thank you to MPD and specifically officers Matt Mara, Ryan Boynton, Freddy Gillis, and Tommy Whelan,” wrote Baines in a Facebook post. “The suspect was arrested and charged with multiple felonies. I also want to thank the thousand or so friends and community members for sharing this story, sending in tips, and for being supportive. One less bad guy on the streets. Well done MPD.”
On Tuesday, Baines said the burglary at his restaurant was emblematic of concerns shared by many downtown business owners.
“It’s definitely unsettling, but certainly not too much of a surprise,” said Baines. “There’s a lot of issues going on downtown right now with the drug epidemic. I think if you walked up and down Elm Street and talked with every restaurant owner they would probably have a story very similar to this, if not some even worse.”
Baines held a roundtable discussion earlier this month where business owners shared their concerns with city officials. The discussion was held during a nor’easter, but Baines said the weather didn’t scare anyone away.
“The event was attended by nearly 100 people,” said Baines. “I feel as though the concerns of the downtown community have been ignored for a long time in this town, and feel as though I am one of the only ones not surprised by the turnout.”
Baines said the city has groups doing “great things and offering a great vision for our future.”
“Manchester Connects’ whole mission is to connect the river to the downtown,” said Baines. “We have a railroad running through the mill yard and nobody will walk to the downtown because of the homeless camps and trash. How can we talk about connecting the river to the downtown when people don’t feel safe walking over the railroad tracks?”
Alderman At Large Dan O’Neil seconded a motion by Baines on Tuesday to create a working group consisting of business owners, aldermen, police and public works to address the concerns of the downtown business community.
“I’m committed to making positive change, but everyone on this board and every department head needs to realize the severity of the reality on the downtown business community, the people that live down here, and the people that visit,” said Baines. “We are at a critical point, and we have to rise to the challenge.”