Connecticut experienced an overall decline in violent crime between 2020 and 2021 even as Hartford and New Haven reached 10-year highs in reported murders, according to statistics offered Thursday by the state Office of Policy and Management.
OPM Undersecretary Marc Pelka briefed the state Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Committee on Connecticut’s crime trends during a morning meeting. In broad strokes, overall crime and violent crime continued a downward trend that had been observed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“It seems that the pandemic’s onset accelerated trends that were already in motion in the state,” Pelka said. “It did not involve a sort of a sharp upward or downward trend in the opposite direction; it just accelerated in many cases those changes.”
Those trends represent good news for the state, especially when viewed over the last decade. Property crime was down by 2% in 2021 and 29% over the last 10 years. Violent crime declined by 9% last year and 43% since 2012.
“That leaves Connecticut’s violent crime rate at less than half the U.S. rate, very positive news there,” Pelka said.
However, the number of murders in Connecticut increased to 150 in 2021, up three from 147 in 2020. The rise was felt most acutely in Hartford, where reported homicides rose from 25 in 2020 to 34 in 2021, and New Haven, which experienced 21 murders in 2020 and 25 in 2021. Meanwhile, murders declined in Bridgeport, Stamford, and Waterbury.
The state’s overall murder rate climbed to 4.22 per 100,000 people in 2021, well below the national rate of 6.9.
“As we all know, one murder is too many,” Pelka said. “Murder comprises the smallest portion of violent crime that resulted in a 2% increase in murder from 2020 to 2021. Less than half of the U.S. rate’s change.”
Connecticut also experienced a 23% increase in the number of forcible rapes from 2020 to 2021, according to the OPM statistics, which reported that a similar increase had been recorded nationally. In 2021, there were 22.08 forcible rapes per 100,000 people in Connecticut, roughly half of the national rate of 43.5.
Despite the decline in overall reported crimes, arrests were up by 3% last year. Kevin Neary, policy development coordinator for the Office of Policy and Management, told the commission that the rise was attributable to an increase in arrests related to motor vehicle crimes, which was up 12% over the prior fiscal year.
“We all understand that with the pandemic and the significant impacts to general driving behavior that we’ve all lived through over the last couple years that now that we are sorta — I won’t say totally — in a post-pandemic phase … and community folks are out driving at a higher volumes again, it’s reasonable that we would then see that growth and that rebound somewhat in those motor vehicle arrests,” Neary said.
Admissions into Department of Correction facilities rose in 2022. Pretrial admissions for new cases increased by 34% while new sentences spiked by almost 200%. Neary said the percentage increase was driven by cases beginning to work through the judicial system after pandemic-related disruptions.
“That is really because new sentence admissions were so, so low in FY 2021 and some of that is really driven by just impacts to the overall disposition timeline of cases during the pandemic,” Neary said.