MIDDLETOWN, CT — Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella and Gov. Ned Lamont will give Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford $25,000 in additional police resources to deal with an increase in violence.
Each summer cities struggle to deal with a spike in violence and shootings and each summer the Connecticut State Police are asked to step in and help. This year is no different.
Rovella said he approached the three chiefs of Connecticut’s largest cities in April and started to put a plan in place for what they knew would be an increase in violence.
“We all knew this was going to happen and the chiefs are the sovereign law enforcement officers for their geographical area,” Rovella said.
He said the three cities are each different, but they also have things in common — narcotics and a lack of manpower. He said these communities are anywhere between 75 and 100 officers short of being fully staffed.
Each community made a different request to the state police.
New Haven asked for a state police detective to be assigned to help reduce violence. Hartford will get back a detective they loaned to the Statewide Narcotics Task Force in addition to a state police detective. Bridgeport asked for additional uniformed state police troopers to help patrol specific areas with local police personnel.
Rovella, Hartford’s former police chief, said the goal of this program “is not to arrest mass people.”
He said they are looking to prevent violence and one of the ways to do that is to be visible in the communities.
“It is a public health epidemic,” Rovella said of the shootings.
In New Haven, the number of gunshots has increased 50%, according to statistics released earlier this month by the police department.
In Hartford, through July 13, there have been 72 shooting incidents. The figure doesn’t include the most recent shooting of a man Tuesday morning in the south end.
In Bridgeport, as of July 15, there have been 11 homicides in 2019, which is the same amount they had in all of 2018.
“As a governor I think my job is to find the best people I can and give them the support that they need,” Lamont said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do here.”
Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said their biggest problem is juveniles.
New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said they’ve had a spike in violence in the Elm City, mostly related to “group on group violence.”
He said they’ve done a lot to mitigate the violence by teaming up with the FBI to indict 25 members of the Island Brothers gang, many of whom allegedly returned from prison to lives of crime and are connected to the recent spate of gun violence in New Haven.
Interim Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody said there are a lot of individual crimes and not a lot of connectivity between them.
As far as reducing violence and investigating it “we’ve tried to take a collaborative approach,” Thody said.
Part of that collaborative approach involves Project Longevity, a program that reduces gun violence through a partnership with community members, law enforcement, and social service providers who directly engage with members of street groups involved in gun violence.
The state budget increased funding by about $400,000 for Project Longevity. The program will receive $998,750 this year from the state.
Marc Pelka, Under Secretary of Criminal Justice for the state Office of Policy and Management, said the lack of funding for the program over the years “impeded efforts” to focus on the population the program was meant to target.