Violent Crimes In City Drop
15.6 % Some
Activists Say More Can Be Done
January 8, 2005
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer
After a year of crackdowns on violent crime in the city
of Hartford, Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett championed the fact Friday that
violent crimes were down significantly in the capital in 2004.
While overall violent crimes, including murder, rapes and serious assaults, were
reported down by 15.6 percent, property crimes increased 11 percent, city officials
said Friday. Overall, crime was up 7.3 percent.
The latest statistics are good news for a city that was ranked the seventh most
dangerous in America last year by a national research firm.
"Violent crime is heading in the right direction," said Harnett, who has initiated
several anti-violence and anti-theft programs since he took the helm seven months
ago. "We aren't happy that property crimes are up."
Later this year, Harnett said, the department is expected to increase its community
police patrols, hoping that all crimes will be reduced and that citizens will
be safer overall. "While we aren't screaming success," Harnett said, "we have
seen some success."
The delicate balance between actual crime rates and the perception of whether
the city is safe has some community activists urging city officials to try harder.
The number of homicides dropped from 44 in 2003 to 17 in 2004. The 2003 figure
included 16 victims of an arson fire at the Greenwood Health Center.
The overwhelming number of violent crimes and shootings took place in the North
District, the city's crime analysis for 2004 shows.
Conversely, property crimes in the South District in 2004 topped the list, with
300 more burglaries occurring in the South than the North and Central districts.
There also were about 1,000 more larcenies in the South than the other two districts,
city records show.
The Central District, which encompasses downtown, had by far the fewest crimes
overall, city records show. It is smaller than the other two districts.
Frank Lord, a resident of South Downtown, credits the lower crime rate in his
neighborhood to a vigilant group of residents who aren't afraid to call the police. "The
statistics come as no surprise. People are less tolerant."
Lord said crime is prevalent in other parts of the city because of the high concentration
of poverty in many of those neighborhoods. The increased rates in those sections
of town are "a concern [to downtown residents] but no reason to move or to go
into a panic."
Although Andrew Woods, who heads several anti-violence initiatives in Hartford's
North End, including Hartford Communities That Care, said he is glad that violent
crime is down, "all of it is too much. It can't go down enough. We have to continue
to redouble our efforts."
"The bottom line for me is it needs to go down faster," Woods said.
While city police are tackling violent crime in the North District, the South
District has become more vulnerable to property crimes, said Hyacinth Yennie,
president of Maple Avenue Neighborhood Revitalization Zone.
Of the overall crime statistics, Yennie said, "I think that they are sugar-coating
it. Property crimes haven't gone down."
While police stepped up enforcement in the north, "we are left here in the south.
We need a proactive plan for the whole city. Until you tell me that there won't
be robberies in my neighborhood and the merchants aren't worried, then I won't
see much change," she said.
Harnett said that residents can anticipate a change in the way police handle
crime enforcement but he says that violent crimes were reduced last year because
more detectives, patrol officers and community officers were participating in
investigations. "We aren't sitting on our laurels."
Harnett said he will announce other new initiatives in community policing next
month, but even then "there's no magic plan."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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