DENVER—Connecticut mayors, meeting at the Democratic National Convention, found common cause with counterparts from across the country in pleading for a return of federally funded police officers to combat rising urban crime.
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch joined mayors from across the United States at a lunch Monday to make sure money for community policing and tougher gun laws are at the top of the next president’s agenda.
Even though they convened the meeting at the site of the Democratic National Convention, mayors said they were calling on both major parties’ presidential candidates to provide more money for community policing and re-entry and rehabilitation programs.
The United States Conference of Mayors, which sponsored the lunch, said it also wants the next president to close loopholes in gun laws.
Finch said Bridgeport has already had 13 homicides this year, which is more than the last two years. He said the city’s community policing has been effective, but could use more resources.
In the 1990’s the federal government provided matching grants to cities through the COPS program, which as part of the 1994 Crime Bill allowed cities to hire 100,000 more police officers. Finch said the COPS program was helpful in decreasing crime in his city.
That money has run out—as a new wave of urban crime, often committed by teens and young men with guns, is bedeviling cities across the country.
Finch also said that more money for re-entry and rehabilitation programs would be useful since one-third of Connecticut’s prison population resides in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. “We’re relying on the weakest governments to provide systems to the most vulnerable,” Finch said after Monday’s lunch meeting.
Prison reentry has also been a hot-button issue in New Haven. Mayor John DeStefano has blasted Gov. M. Jodi Rell for the state’s practice of “dumping” 25 ex-prisoners a week from around the state onto New Haven streets without providing more money for social programs to help them integrate into the community.
But Monday’s event was aimed at the Oval Office. Stamford’s Malloy, who co-authored the renewed call for federal funds to fight crime, said, “We’ve had an anti-urban, anti-city president for eight years.”
New Haven and Hartford, two other Connecticut cities which have also deployed community policing programs, were not represented at Monday’s lunch.
New Haven Mayor DeStefano did not attend the lunch at the Grand Hyatt Monday because he had not yet arrived in Denver, according to his spokeswoman, Jessica Mayorga. DeStefano was expected to arrive in Denver on Monday evening.
At Monday’s event Malloy and Finch called on the next president to close a loophole for gun sales. When the federal government shuts down a gun dealer for illegal practices, it turns around and sells the guns without doing the background checks on the buyers, Malloy said.
He said the federal government also allowed the ban on assault weapons to expire more than two years ago.
At a press conference following the lunch, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa (pictured) said that public safety is not a partisan issue. “For our cities to be as vibrant as they can be we’re going to have to focus on public safety,” he said. However, he warned “we want to be as tough on crime, as we are on the root causes of crime.”
He said in order to address public safety, cities also have to address affordable housing poverty, education, and quality of life issues.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said 34 people are killed every day by violence in the United States; more than half are under 29. He said this outreach to both parties’ presidential candidates is important to get these issues addressed. Heowever did mention that the 1994 legislation was authored by Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden.