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Police Initiative Reducing City Shootings

August 3, 2005
By STEPHANIE REITZ, Courant Staff Writer

The number of shootings on Hartford streets has dropped significantly in the weeks since city police launched an initiative to blanket troubled neighborhoods with more patrols.

According to new statistics released Tuesday by the Hartford Police Department, some of the most noticeable decreases took place in the Upper Albany, Clay Arsenal and Northeast neighborhoods, the targets of the department's new Northeast Violence Reduction Initiative.

The initiative, which the department launched June 22, was a response to a spiraling increase this spring in shootings on Hartford streets.

After the city initiative began, state troopers were called in to bolster patrols, more uniformed and plainclothes officers were sent to the streets and special investigations into drug and gun trafficking were launched. Similar crackdowns with help from the state police took place in 2001 and 2003, resulting in immediate decreases in violent crime.

Hartford Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett credited the decrease not only to the neighborhoods initiative, but to the efforts of the individual officers walking the beats, working undercover and teaming up with state and federal officers.

"I think it's been a real win-win: good for the police, but most of all, good for the people who live in the neighborhoods where the violence had been occurring," Harnett said. "It's not just [declining] in the Northeast. Crime throughout the city is really going in the right direction."

State Police Sgt. J. Paul Vance said Tuesday that state police have not yet been told when their troopers will leave Hartford, and that they will stay "as long as it's deemed necessary" to help the Hartford officers.

"We work with each other in harmony, and the combined presence seems to be having a positive impact in the community," Vance said. "The progress we've been making has been very notable."

Although the number of shootings has dropped citywide since the initiative started in June, the decrease is particularly noticeable in the North End neighborhoods targeted by the initiative, according to department figures.

In the 28 days before June 25, there were 14 shootings in which 15 people were injured in that area, and three people were killed. In the 28 days preceding July 30, there were three shootings with three injured victims in the same area, and no homicides in those neighborhoods.

The city's most recent homicide occurred July 15 in the city's South End.

As of Tuesday evening, two people had been reported shot this week in Hartford: a woman shot in the leg Sunday on Huntington Street, and a man grazed by a shotgun blast early Tuesday on Baltimore Street. Neither victim's injuries were life-threatening, police said.

In Tuesday's shooting, the victim said three men drove up in a van shortly after 5 a.m. and demanded an "eight ball," or one-eighth of an ounce of cocaine, police said. When a man said that he had none, another man opened the van door and fired a shotgun, police said.

The shot grazed the victim's back as he ran away. The man, whose name was not given by police, was treated at Hartford Hospital and released. The street where the shooting occurred is in the city's North End, part of the violence-reduction initiative's territory.

The Rev. Donald Johnson, leader of the HOPE Street Ministries anti-violence group, said he and others have seen a noticeable decrease in tension throughout the area. People are especially pleased by the foot patrols and the chance to get to know the neighborhood officers, he said.

"They're not in a cruiser where you have to flag them down. You can just say hello, and `how's it going?'" Johnson said.

But although residents are pleased by the increased patrols and the calm that they seem to have fostered, they are also nervous about whether Hartford will have enough officers to maintain that peace once the state troopers leave, Johnson said.

Also, Johnson said, many people still worry that young residents have few opportunities that could help deter them from trouble, such as good jobs and safe, fun social activities.

"The worry is whether this is a quick fix, or medicating the problem," Johnson said. "The evidence is proven that with the right amount of personnel, you can get done what you need done."

As of July 30, police had seized 190 illegal guns during 2005, department spokeswoman Nancy Mulroy said. Many were confiscated during investigations by an anti-gun task force that the department formed earlier this year with agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearmsand Explosives.

Harnett said he does not want to be lulled into a false sense of security by the most recent statistics, knowing that spikes can re-occur at any time. He said that if that happens, the department will rely on its neighborhood policing plan and other measures to squelch problems again.

"You can never rest on your laurels in police work," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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