Courtesy of CT-N
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Courtesy of CT-N)

HARTFORD, CT—Gov. Dannel P. Malloy trumpeted statistics that show crime trends continue to decrease in Connecticut while criticizing candidates for office who he said are misleading the public by stating the state is not safer than its been in decades.

In a 2018-mid-year update on crime trends report prepared by Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Michael P. Lawlor it says that overall reported crime in 2017 was the lowest in 50 years.

The report, which was discussed at a press conference, said there 71,883 “index crimes,” which are crimes involving victims, i.e. murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson in 2017. The highest year for those type of crimes was 1990, the report said, when 177,068 occurred.

The total number of statewide arrests for all crimes dropped by 41 percent between 2009, when statewide arrests peaked at 138,719, and 2017, when there were 81,408 arrests – a drop of 7.5 percent from 2016. 

By analyzing recent trends, the criminal justice policy and planning office is projecting that there will likely be about 6 percent fewer arrests in 2018 than there were in 2017.

The report said that since Malloy took office in 2011, statistics show that the overall crime in the state has declined 19 percent, including a 19 percent decline in violent crimes.

“Over the last several years, Connecticut has had a dramatic reduction in violent crime and projections are showing that this trend will continue,” Malloy said. “Recently enacted criminal justice reforms, which were supported by experts from both side of the aisle, are showing real results.”

Asked whether he believed people in the state really felt safer he said he did.

“We have to remember that this data represents real change in our communities – our policies are making our neighborhoods safer while at the same time providing young people who may otherwise get trapped into a cycle of crime the ability to lead successful lives.”

The governor went on: “When you hear crime is out of control on campaign trail – anyone who is saying that is intentionally misleading the public.”

“They are lying,” Malloy said. “Facts are facts. Statistics are statistics. The reality is that we are enjoying the safest period of our existence in 50 years.”

Malloy said he’s proud of his legacy on crime and prison initiatives, which he ticked off a modernization of state drug laws; reforming the bail system to focus less on a person’s affluence; raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in light of scientific evidence that young adults are still developing well into their 20s; enhancing the state’s criminal justice data system; providing more support to school districts to stop young people from entering the criminal justice system and beginning a life of crime; and implementing policies that provide incarcerated individuals who are already in the criminal justice system with the tools necessary to lead productive lives and end a cycle of crime.

As crime in the state has dropped, so has the prison population. Since January 2011, the prison population has dropped by 4,097 inmates – a 23 percent decrease, the report said.

Courtesy of CT-N
New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell (Courtesy of CT-N)

Malloy said if current trends continue over the next few years, Connecticut is poised to become the first state in the nation to cut its prison and jail population in half.

“Governor Malloy’s comprehensive criminal justice reforms have yielded measurable and sustained improvements in public safety over the past eight years,” Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro said. “The collaboration of the state with its local and federal partners is integral to Connecticut’s success. 

Malloy also bristled as criticism of the enacting of the state’s Risk Reduction Earned Credit system, which allows an inmate to be released from prison early if he or she participates in programming behind bars. It went into effect in Sept. 2011.

The second chance legislation was passed in 2015, which treats drug possession as a misdemeanor and eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug possession. It also speeds up parole hearings for low-risk inmates and eases the process by which ex-offenders earn a full pardon.

Of the reforms pushed through by Malloy, Democrat candidate for Ned Lamont has said the state saving money on prison costs, but Republican Bob Stefanowski has said he is concerned inmates who are released early are committing violent crimes and actually costing Connecticut more money.

During the first gubernatorial debate on Sept. 12 at the Garde Center for the Arts in New London, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski said he believes in second chances, but doesn’t believe Malloy’s program is working.

“Almost 50 percent of the people that are released early are accused and commit another crime,” Stefanowski said.

Stefanowski’s campaign cited a 2018 report from Lawlor’s office that shows 60 percent of prisoners released in 2014 were re-arrested, 53 percent were returned to prison, for at least one single day, 45 percent were convicted for a new offense, and 34 percent returned to prison to begin a new term of incarceration.

Those numbers are lower than the last time the state looked at the recidivism data, which Malloy points to in showing the downward trend.

“Since I became governor people who do violent acts spend more time in prison than before I became governor – that’s a fact,” Malloy said.

The mid-year 2018 report shows that so far there has been 32 murders in the cities of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport so far this year; down almost 30 percent from a total of 44 last year at the same time last year.

New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell, who was at the press conference, said New Haven had the lowest number of homicides in 50 years last year – with 7. “And we are on pace to continue that trend,” the chief said.

Campbell said the reduction in homicide and crime overall in his city is due to the collaborative work his department has established with state and federal authorities, along with working hard to build a strong community policing model with citizens of New Haven.

“What Connecticut is doing is working, the chief said. “The quality of life is improving for all our citizens.”