Father Mitchell, Mayor Eddie Perez, and Police Chief Daryl RobertsResidents, neighborhood groups, and merchants in Hartford’s southend called on the mayor and police chief Friday to address an increase in crime from robberies and theft to last weekend’s deadly shooting on Standish Street. In front of Saint Augustine Church near Barry Square, Mayor Eddie Perez and new city Police Chief Daryl Roberts told residents that they already had begun to address the spike in crime. Roberts said he diverted some of the city’s police force currently concentrated in the northend to the southend after last week’s shooting.
Eric Rodriquez, 21, was shot several times in the chest outside a party on Standish Street last Friday. Police spokeswoman Nancy Mulroy said police are still gathering evidence and talking to witnesses. She said Hartford and New Britain Police are collaborating on the investigation because the shooting may have a connection to another in New Britain. While the robberies and petty theft may have upset the quality of life in the southend neighborhood, gun violence is rare, unlike in other parts of the city. “You now know this is a prime area for trouble, so what are you doing about it?” one resident asked. “We are doing all we can to make this neighborhood safe,” Roberts said. “But we need your help.” Roberts and Perez said the police have stepped up the number of patrols in the area, but still need the community’s help to reduce crime. They said the residents in the neighborhood have to look out for each other, too. Whether it’s keeping an eye on a neighbors home while they’re on vacation, starting a block watch, or being smart about which ATM you use to withdraw money, you each share in the responsibility of keeping the neighborhood safe, Roberts said. Community activist Hyacinth Yennie said, “We need to take ownership of our streets.” Roberts said if you look out your window and “something doesn’t look right, get a pen and write down what you see,” then call us. He said whether it’s a license plate number or a description of a person, “you can help us out.” “I need you all to be nosy neighbors,” he said. Since most of the gun violence in the city has been attributed to youth, one of the residents asked why they don’t get the youth, who seem to be causing the problems, off the streets with a curfew ordinance. Perez said the city already has a curfew ordinance, but that it’s not enforced because it would drain police resources. If it were enforced, Perez estimated that police would picking up 1,500 youth a week. “At that point, you’re tying up police resources with that one activity,” he said. “The bulk of the kids hanging out right now are not part of the criminal element,” Perez said. He said the ones with the criminal problems are the ones who are truant from school. In addition, Perez said, 750 youth arrive in the city each month after being released from juvenile justice system.Roberts said the school board, police department, and the city will roll out its new truancy policy at the beginning of the school year. He said currently a student is not considered truant until they miss about 30 days of school. He said under the new policy two police detectives—one in the southend and one in the northend—will track down youth after four consecutive absences. Perez said he doesn’t want to enforce the curfew ordinance until he is able to offer the city’s youth positive alternatives through the newly created Youth Services Office. Perez said the office created by the City Council will offer programs to youth ages 9 and up. Nine through 13 year olds have been neglected by a variety of programs providers, Perez said. He said that currently, through Capitol Workforce Partners and other social service agencies, the city is able to employ 1,300 youth during the summer. While that’s valuable, Perez said, his goal is to also employ the rest of the 4,000 youth who applied for those 1,300 slots. In keeping with that promise, Perez announced in a press release Friday that he appointed Enid Rey to direct the new Youth Services Office.Rey was the vice president of the Village for Families and Children and previously worked at The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Click here for a copy of the police brochures handed out as a resource guide for residents.