At Hartford Forum On Unsolved Homicides, All Agree That Community Must Help Law Enforcement
By JENNA CARLESSO
January 29, 2013
HARTFORD Residents, police and community activists gathered Tuesday for a forum on unsolved city homicides.
There were many suggestions and concerns, but one conclusion was clear: the community needs to come together and speak up.
"We all got to be a snitch," said Samuel Saylor, a minister whose son was fatally shot in October. "We can hire 1,000 cops, 5,000 cops, and we still won't get [everything] done. If you see something, say something."
The forum was held at Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E Church on Main Street as a way to bring police, public officials and the community together to discuss unsolved homicides and what resources are available for families struggling with the unsolved murder of a loved one.
Members of the city council, community groups, churches, the cold case unit of the Hartford Shooting Task Force and Mayor Pedro Segarra attended. Panelists included Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy; Hartford police Lt. Brian Foley, head of the major crime division; Councilman Kyle Anderson; Linda Cimino, director of the state's Office of Victim Services; the Rev. Henry Brown; and JoAnn Hurt of the Wheeler Clinic Mobile Crisis Unit.
The forum was organized by a group of local ministers. The city currently has 226 unsolved homicides, some dating back to 1988.
During a question-and-answer portion of the meeting, several residents spoke of encouraging witnesses of crimes to come forward.
"They can't be everywhere, with 400-plus individuals," Anderson said of the city's police department. "If the community is willing to step up we can get results."
"The police can't do it alone. We can't do it alone," Hardy said. "We still need the community's assistance."
Hardy said witness protection is available, though it typically involves having to relocate a person for his or her own safety.
Asked what the incentive was for people to share information with authorities, despite the risk of harm, Hardy replied: "The incentive for stepping forward should always be doing the right thing."
She noted that anyone seeking information about the witness protection program should contact police. Witnesses may also leave anonymous tips by calling the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 860-722-8477.
Some family members dealing with a loved one's unsolved homicide expressed frustration over a lack of communication with police. Teresa Gordon, whose son, 21-year-old Terrell Oten, and his friend were killed in 2006, said she felt that police were giving her "the runaround."
"The thing is, at least give us a courtesy call to let us know what's going on with the case," she said.
Police made themselves available after the forum to speak with families about unsolved cases.
Other recommendations included installing cameras in areas where violent crime is prevalent, offering more rewards for information leading to arrests and convictions and holding workshops that help improve the relationship between the police and residents.
Two years ago, the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice, the Department of Correction and law enforcement agencies created a deck of playing cards that feature unsolved homicides, missing persons and cases of unidentified remains from throughout the state. The cards were distributed to inmates with the hope of generating tips.
Jacqueline Oliver, whose 37-year-old son, Derrick Stephenson, was killed in 2009, suggested distributing the cards on the streets.
"The ones on the streets might know as much as the people in the prisons," she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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