New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport are teaming up with the state and the federal government to put an end to urban violence through what is being described as a long term strategy to target those individuals with the help of the community.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said his city has not fully implemented the strategy yet, but described it as sort of an intervention for the small number of violent individuals.
He said the idea, modeled after a strategy developed by David Kennedy, is to focus on a small number of violent individuals and have law enforcement spend a considerable amount of time making cases on them.
“Then you bring them in with community members, family members and you show them what you have and you say you have a choice: ‘You can either stop this. If you stop this we will not prosecute you … And if you do keep this up every member of your group will feel our full wrath’.”
DeStefano said intervention would be a good word to describe how “focused deterrence” works.
“What Kennedy has shown in his research in other cities is that when these programs are sustained it begins to modify behavior,” he said stressing that it was a long term strategy which has yet to be fully implemented in the Elm City.
DeStefano joined Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra Thursday at a Capitol press conference to announce the “focused deterrence” initiative.
“We know for the most part who violent offenders are in our communities,” Malloy said. “What this is, is a prolonged project in having those individuals understand we know who they are, they know who we are, the community knows who they are, and is going to be our focus with that group of people to lower violent crime and homicides.”
Malloy explained that the strategy essentially is about “bringing the community into context for those individuals so they know that the behaviors they have heretofore engaged in with little consequence will be engaged in with great consequence.”
The interventions include everything from making sure these individuals are greeted when they exit jail to making sure the probation department is vigilant about its supervision.
For the past six months the U.S. Attorney’s office has been working with the city of New Haven on implementing the program.
U.S. Attorney David Fein said the “focused deterrence” strategy combines vigorous enforcement efforts with the tested and proven crime prevention program and strong reentry initiatives. He said by involving social service providers and the community “we believe this focused deterrence strategy will be successful here in Connecticut.”
There is about $500,000 in the state budget to help expand the program to both Hartford and Bridgeport.
Last year, 94 out of the 129 homicides statewide occurred in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven.
“Almost all of those homicides involving guns. Almost all of those homicides involving young men, mostly African-American young men,” Malloy said.
He said this program won’t stop the violence overnight, but if the state is able to make these techniques the “new norm” it has worked to reduce gun violence in other cities.
“I have every confidence that they will help us address the problem in our state,” Malloy said.
But Michael Lawlor, Malloy’s undersecretary of criminal justice planning, cautioned it won’t work without the support of the community.
“Nothing will work unless it’s supported by the community,” Lawlor said. “It’s a two way street. They have to be supportive of what we’re doing and we have to be supportive of what they’re doing.”
And each community is different, which is why officials spoke in generalities at the press conference, Lawlor said.
Read more about how the community is being engaged in the strategy in New Haven.