While overall crime and violent crime declined in Connecticut during 2021, statistics released Monday by public safety officials found a 23% increase in the number of rapes and a 2% increase in instances of murder and negligent manslaughter last year.
During a televised press conference from Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection headquarters in Middletown, Commissioner James Rovella said his agency had opted to release the incomplete statistics that included all state law enforcement agencies but lacked data from the FBI which is expected to become available in the coming weeks.
In broad strokes, the report — released just weeks before voters head to the polls to consider Gov. Ned Lamont’s re-election — contained good news on the overall rate of crime in Connecticut.
Overall crime dropped by 2.82% last year while violent crime declined by 9.04% and property crime decreased by 2.08%. Lamont praised law enforcement officials during the press event.
“These numbers show a very positive trend and really hats off to our state police and our municipal police and to each and every one of you and the incredible work you do,” Lamont said. “These numbers are not just relatively positive year-over-year but over the last 10 years, over the last 20 years, over the last 30 years. And I think it’s testament to one of the best police forces in the world right here in Connecticut.”
Not everything in the report was positive, however. After increasing sharply from 107 to 147 between 2019 and 2020, the number of murders and negligent homicides climbed by another three victims to 150 in 2021. The increase corresponds with a national trend. During 2020, the last year with available federal statistics, Connecticut reported 4.13 murders per 100,000 residents compared to the national rate of 6.55.
Meanwhile, Rovella told reporters he suspected the steep increase in the number of rapes could largely be attributed to delayed reporting by victims. After remaining above 800 incidents per year since 2012, the number of rapes dropped to 638 in 2020 then rose to 786 last year, according to the report.
“Last year’s numbers were some of the lowest we’ve ever seen. So the increase is dramatic this time around,” Rovella said. “I suspect after coming after COVID that reporting for a victim of sexual assualt is not only difficult on its onset but it’s also difficult a month or a few months down the road for those folks, but we’re seeing that they are making these complaints.”
Despite the increase, the rate of reported rapes per 100,000 residents in Connecticut in 2021 was 22.11, which will likely remain well below the national rate. Although national statistics have yet to be released, the overall U.S. rate has been higher than 38 per 100,000 since 2015.
“The data released today on rape is alarming and demands immediate attention. More people are speeding on our roads, traffic fatalities have increased, there were over 1,500 more car thefts in 2021 than in 2019, and police recruitment is a major issue,” Republican Sens. Kevin Kelly and Paul Formica, said.
The report comes late in an election year in which Republican candidates, including Lamont’s opponent Bob Stefanowski, have characterized crime as out-of-control in Connecticut. Stefanowski released a statement Monday afternoon calling the statistics “largely a year or more old.”
“Unfortunately for Gov. Lamont, the people of Connecticut aren’t stupid and they’re not blind,” Stefanowski said. “You only need to turn on your nightly news, open a newspaper, or talk with your neighbors to know crime in Connecticut is a problem and a growing threat to communities all across our state due to policies that have handcuffed and scapegoated our police and made it harder for them to do their jobs.”
Rovella told reporters it was his decision to release the incomplete report as other states have done in the absence of federal numbers.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate that I hold onto these numbers any longer,” Rovella said. “I’ve had them for about a month waiting for the FBI to release.”
During the press conference, Lamont carefully avoided downplaying the impact of crime on residents who experience it.
“If there’s a crime that happens in your neighborhood, your street, your community, that hits very close to home and we take that to heart,” Lamont said. “That’s why I’m particularly proud of the numbers that James [Rovella] went through. Just to show — at least give people a broader sense of confidence that our police and our wrap-around services … is making a difference.”