Looking at a map of the 2010 race for governor it’s easy to see why Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been very visible in Connecticut’s major cities this summer.
It’s been reported that he’s been a frequent guest in New Haven, and on Tuesday he made a trip to Bridgeport to learn more about what that city is doing to combat crime under a project based on the work of renowned criminologist and John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor David Kennedy.
Project Longevity, as it’s known, is based on the premise that 3 percent of the population in any city is responsible for 90 percent of the violence. The idea is to target the individuals committing the majority of the violence and offering the ones who want to get away from the street a full range of services from housing to job training.
Project Longevity was launched in New Haven in November 2012 and Bridgeport got involved in October 2013. Hartford also is participating.
“I want you all to understand that this is far from my first stop in Bridgeport to speak about homicides, about shootings, about assaults,” Malloy said. “I’ve been here on a regular basis working with your police department and with your mayor and I’m proud of the efforts.”
Malloy said Bridgeport has seen an impressive decline in crime statistics, but “young people are continuing, unfortunately, to kill other young people.”
Bridgeport Assistant Chief of Police James Nardozzi said homicides are down 33 percent over where they were this time last year, and shootings are down 12.12 percent.
Bridgeport Project Manager Charles Grady said 79 individuals have come to one of the city’s three call-in events where people with criminal histories are given a chance to obtain services if they agree to follow the rules. He said they’ve had some drop out of the program because they’ve returned to doing drugs, specifically PCP or “wet-wet,” which is a cigarette dipped in formaldehyde.
Grady said the services requested by the individuals who attend these events vary from job assistance to housing to education. He said there’s also a large majority who need help obtaining a state ID card.
“These numbers that I’m giving you, they may not sound mighty and big . . . but when you look at the individuals that we’re dealing with and the obstacles that they’re facing, these numbers are tremendous and it’s all because of the service-provider network,” Grady said.
Malloy said the state’s crime rate is the lowest its been in decades and it’s because of programs like Project Longevity.
“With initiatives like Project Longevity, we can reduce gun violence,” Malloy said. “Project Longevity has the potential to lower violent crime here in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. But we need to do more than simply having police programs. We need to have service programs and that’s what we’re talking about here today.”
Malloy was quick to point out that Bridgeport service providers involved with anti-violence programs received $671,000 this year. One of the groups that received the funding was the Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership, which was the audience Tuesday for Malloy’s press conference.
“It’s about making growing up just a little bit safer,” Malloy said. “It’s about keeping people out of trouble and out of jail. It’s about keeping people safe and alive.”
Malloy said combating violence with opportunity needs to be a sustained effort in the state’s urban centers.
Republican Tom Foley, who lost to Malloy by 6,404 votes in 2010 and is seeking to challenge him again this year, has been focusing on the cities. He announced his exploratory committee in the same building in Bridgeport that Malloy visited Tuesday and he officially launched his candidacy at a V.F.W. in Waterbury.
Chris Cooper, Foley’s campaign spokesman, said Foley outlined an urban agenda that includes the reduction of crime and great opportunity for employment. The think-tank Foley founded after losing in 2010 released a paper earlier this year detailing four strategies to combat crime in urban areas.
Cooper said Foley is focused on reducing crime, fixing urban schools, reducing unemployment, and figuring out ways to improve the deteriorating housing stock.
“He believes the fate of the cities is important to the state of Connecticut that’s why he’s pledging to focus more resources on them,” Cooper said.
Asked about the interest one of his potential Republican opponents is expressing in urban areas, Malloy danced around the question.
“Republicans don’t have a candidate yet,” Malloy said. “I’m happy to compare my urban track record with what they would call their proposals. In point of fact, if Republicans cared about urban environments in Connecticut, some of our cities wouldn’t be in the terrible shape they are in. After all they had, in essence, Republican governors for, in essence, 20 years.”
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, a Democrat, expressed confidence that Malloy would carry that city again this year in an election that isn’t creating as much excitement as it did four years ago.
He said Democratic voters in Bridgeport realize Malloy is a Democratic governor who has been fighting for their interests.
“If you want a governor who is going to fight for cities, fight for jobs in the cities, fight against gun violence, this is your guy and you gotta keep him in,” Finch said. That’s the message he said he would be spreading to voters.