By Matt Burgard, Courant Staff Writer
March 4, 2005
Hartford's top leaders told a crowd of residents Thursday that
they do not intend to use any so-called "stopgap measures''
such as temporarily beefed up police patrols to address the problem
of youth-on-youth gun violence that contributed to last week's
shooting death of a 15-year-old high school honors student.
Instead, the city's mayor and police chief said they intend
to get at the complex issues at the heart of the problem by pursuing
long-term solutions and strategies that have been in the works
for several weeks. Speaking before a crowd of about 50 residents
in the auditorium at Weaver High School -- where teachers and
students are still mourning last week's shooting death of sophomore
Lorenzo Morgan Rowe -- Police Chief Patrick Harnett outlined
a new citywide policing plan that calls for more police attention
and community interaction in parts of the city.
Instead of beefing up patrols in the Blue Hills neighborhood,
where Lorenzo was shot last week while walking home from a basketball
game, Harnett and Mayor Eddie A. Perez said they believe the
police department's new approach will bring the kind of long-term
solution that other, temporary measures have failed to produce
in the past.
Perez waved off a question about whether he would consider asking
for officers from outside agencies, such as the state police,
to help patrol problem neighborhoods -- a tactic that has been
used several times in the past during eruptions of gun violence.
Instead, the mayor said, he hopes to rely less on police and
more on schools, social services groups and residents themselves
to identify problems before they are allowed to escalate into
In particular, Perez said he has spent the past several weeks
identifying young people at city middle and high schools who
have severe disciplinary and behavior problems, many of whom
have been suspended repeatedly or have been arrested. He said
he has gone to the homes of several dozen of those young people
in an effort to reach out to their parents or guardians to prevent
their children from either turning to violence or falling victim
After his conversations with the parents or guardians, Perez
said, he then has turned to schools and social service agencies
to see what kind of help can be provided to the families to save
their children. In many cases, he said, he has encountered mothers
or fathers who have expressed frustration over not being able
to control their children.
"We have this stereotype of the parents who don't care or who
are never there, but that's not usually the case,'' he said.
"These are mothers and guardians who need help.''
By trying to identify problems before they explode, the mayor
said, he hopes to make it easier for Harnett and his department
to clamp down on the problems that do result in violence or law-breaking.
Harnett urged residents to have faith in his plan rather than
calling for a temporary measure that might bring a few days or
weeks of relief, only to return when the measure has ended.
"Give us a chance,'' he said. "It's something we're working
on and we understand these issues have an awful lot to do with
young people. ... It's a process, and it's unfair to say this
is going to change everything overnight.''
But some residents said the city needs to take more action while
waiting for the long-term strategies to bear fruit.
Robert Taylor, a father who lives in the neighborhood near Weaver,
said the police department should devote more officers to neighborhoods
where gun violence has broken out rather than distributing them
evenly throughout the city.
"If this is where the kids are shooting each other, this is
where the cops should be,'' he said.
Thursday's forum took place three hours after hundreds of Lorenzo
Rowe's family members and friends, as well as Perez and other
community leaders, gathered for a memorial service. Police have
arrested two other teens in connection with Lorenzo's killing,
which police said appears to have been a case of mistaken identity.
During the service at St. Monica's Episcopal Church in the city's
North End, the Rev. Himie-Budu Shannon told mourners that other
young people will be similarly memorialized in the future unless
parents and neighbors take responsibility for raising their children.
"Why is this community not outraged?'' he asked. "Parents,
you are to be blamed, too. ... You are responsible because God
gave you these gifts.'
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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