Standing before a bar graph showing a steady, five-year decrease in serious crime in Hartford, Mayor Eddie A. Perez on Friday highlighted some law enforcement successes of the past year: A 9.6 percent decrease in serious crime since 2007; the formation of a team to combat gun offenses; and the start of an anonymous tip line that helped solve a shooting and three robberies.
Despite the successes, Perez said there's room for improvement and outlined ways he hopes to make the city safer.
"My friends, we still have a lot of work to do," he said.
In the annual press conference, Perez presented goals for the coming year that would put more cops on the streets, improve response time and increase communication about released prisoners.
With the police chief, a city councilman and a community volunteer at his side, Perez said he is working with New Haven and Bridgeport leaders to get $5 million a year per city from the state for a "COPS" program — Community-Oriented Policing Services — for each of three years. The money would go toward hiring officers, funding after-school and mentoring programs for children, and for programs to help recently released prisoners.
Perez also said he will ask the administration of President-elect Barack Obama for $25 million in stimulus money to help build a new public safety complex on High Street, which he said would centralize police services and improve response time. The long-planned project also would stimulate the economy by creating jobs, Perez said.
Finally, Perez said he would like to require state agencies such as the judicial branch and the Department of Correction to tell police chiefs and town leaders every 30 days who is being released from prison into their communities and what support the former inmates are getting.
The "Parole and Probation Transparency Bill," as he called it, would give law enforcement a tool to better track ex-cons, Perez said. Hartford is home to 5,094 people on probation — 9 percent of the statewide total, the city says.
Brian Garnett, spokesman for the correction department, said a list of inmates leaving state prisons is provided to police weekly. Still, he said, "We're working very closely with the Hartford Police Department, and we would certainly look at ways in which that can be enhanced."
While Chief Daryl K. Roberts bemoaned a 12.8 percent increase in aggravated assault over 2007, neither he nor Perez specifically referred to the crimes that got the most attention in 2008: the unsolved hit-and-run on Park Street that was recorded and televised nationally, the brutal beating of a former deputy mayor and the shooting that followed the West Indian parade, killing a young man and injuring a 7-year-old boy and a baby. The crime stats measure murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries and larcenies, including auto theft.
Perez focused on the positives. He sees signs that some in the community are pulling together to help combat crime, he said.
The anonymous tip line got 120 tips since its launch in August, said Julio Concepcion of the MetroHartford Alliance and Crime Stoppers chairman. They helped police solve a shooting and bank robberies in Hartford and South Windsor, he said.
"The citizens of this city are resilient," Perez said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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