Chief Rovella focuses on violence, quality-of-life offenses
Hartford Courant Editorial
May 18, 2012
Many have wondered why Hartford can't get its crime problem under better control, when the city is relatively small and presumably manageable. One reason is that the responsible agencies don't always work together.
Acting police chief James Rovella learned this lesson when named to head the Hartford Shooting Task Force last year. He saw that too many agencies weren't talking to one another, and that they were much more effective when they did.
The task force has made an impact on violent crime: Homicides are down by 50 percent from last year and shooting incidents are down 8 percent. Mr. Rovella, a former Hartford detective who had been serving as chief inspector for the chief state's attorney's office, now plans to use the task force model on a broader swath of the crime problem.
The new plan calls for increasing police patrols around major employers. Officers will be deployed to businesses, college campuses and hospitals at peak times. The officers will keep track of the crime in these areas, and hope to show employers that the areas are safe.
Good plan. To paraphrase Mayor Pedro Segarra, the city has to retain businesses and residents, and attract new ones. To do this, it has to overcome the perception that the city is unsafe.
Police will concentrate on quality-of-life issues such as noise, larceny, littering and public intoxication, and with stricter enforcement of traffic laws. This is long overdue; excessive noise has probably driven more people out of the city than violent crime. Police recently arrested some of the knuckleheads who race motorcycles on Main Street late at night, making a lot of downtown residents happy.
Also, officers, working with probation officers, will develop a relationship with criminals released on probation to help them stay out of trouble. Mr. Rovella notes that there are between 75 and 125 "really bad actors" who commit much of the serious crime. By paying personalized attention to them, he hopes to make a serious impact on crime.
This plan has a real focus; it's not a do-your-own-thing approach that the department has sometimes fallen into in the past. Secondly, it views police officers as part of a community team, along with educators, building officials and others. If they can sustain the effort, it will almost assuredly pay off.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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