In its first year, Hartford’s shooting task force was able to reduce gun-related homicides by more than 40 percent, according to statistics released by city officials.
A task force report showed that shootings were on the rise in 2011, but according to Hartford Police Chief James Rovella, since the formation of the task force, there has been a 27.3 percent reduction in violent crime, including shootings, and 11 fewer homicides than the year before.
“We’re now fishing with a spear,” Rovella said, “I don’t look for hundreds of arrests, I look for those violent people that are impacting our city and our region on a daily basis.”
There were 51 fewer shooting victims last year, Rovella said. He noted that the state saved money on treating gunshot victims because most shooting victims are underinsured or not insured, he said.
It’s unclear how much money the shooting task force cost the city, but similar long term solutions to violence are being sought by all three of Connecticut’s big cities. It’s an strategy developed by David Kennedy. The idea behind it is to focus on a small number of violent individuals and have law enforcement spend a considerable amount of time making cases on them.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said he is looking to come up with more ways to reduce homicides and shootings.
There is oftentimes an “unfair perception” of Hartford, according to Segarra. But with purposeful and directed action resulting from the task force is just what the city needs to better its reputation, he said.
“While we have a strong fist that says that we are not going to tolerate violence in our city, we also provide, given our limited resources, whatever opportunities we can to our community so that we can continue to eradicate violence in our community,” Segarra said.
State’s Attorney Gail Hardy said she and Segarra started meeting about 16 months ago to deal with Hartford’s increasing number of shootings and homicides. Three months later, on July 1, 2011, the Shooting Team Task Force was formed.
The July 1 shooter eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to 42 years in jail, Hardy said. “That is a good result,” she said.
Hardy said the task force is seeking cooperative efforts from federal, state, and local police departments, and prosecutors. The desired result of the task force is for Hartford residents and those just passing through to feel safe when they’re in the city.
State and federal agencies as well as local police departments like Manchester, West Hartford, East Hartford, and Wethersfield have contributed to the task of reducing violent crime in Hartford, Hardy said.
Because the task force requires a team effort, Hardy said, police officers keep open communication with the State’s Attorney Office and its prosecutors which allows for more accurate arrests to be made. There is a pattern in the task force’s statistics that gun-violence related criminals are now getting longer sentences, she said.
Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Len Boyle said the task force has proven to be effective because of Rovella’s integrated approach that calls for close involvement of law enforcement officers and prosecutors from the State Attorney’s office. That cooperation ensures that particularly dangerous people can get the treatment they deserve in court and the sentences that get them off the streets and out of their communities, Boyle said.
“Law enforcement is just a little piece of the solution,” Rovella said, noting the importance of faith-based institutions and social industries and their role in planting moral compasses in young people.
According to Rovella, 40 to 50 percent of gun violence revolves around drugs.