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Community Needed To Help Heal Hartford

EDDIE A. PEREZ

June 15, 2008

Hartford has proven itself as a city of incredible resilience. Together, through the years, we have overcome floods, riots and economic troubles, and, despite recent events that threatened to cast a shadow on this great city, our spirit remains strong.

We remain determined to turn our outrage into positive actions. I say with all my heart that Hartford truly is a caring city in good times and in bad. For every negative, there are at least 10 positives. They happen quietly, without fanfare every day.

The recent crimes on Capitol Avenue and Park Street serve to remind us that we cannot take our sense of community for granted. These horrific acts call for swift and decisive action on all levels of our community.

As mayor, I am meeting with neighborhood groups and speaking at churches. It is essential that we reach out on the grass-roots level and on the spiritual level to get people more engaged in a dialogue that is honest, sincere and not just talk.

I meet with groups regularly. Our Volunteers of Faith church tour was already ready to resume. We gather now with a new sense of urgency and a renewed sense of hope that good can come out of the recent tragic events.

I mention the community first, because government and police cannot solve crime and social challenges alone. Our best efforts in reducing crime have come through our Neighborhood Policing Plan, through which people build trust and relationships with their "cop on the beat."

Yet more must be done. We cannot revert to the same practices as before. Our efforts must now be more united, more coordinated, more targeted and more effective than ever before in every neighborhood and on every street.

The city has reached out to state leaders to add to the already increased visibility of police on patrol. We appreciate and have accepted the governor's offer of state police support. Even more can be done within budget restraints. We will increase quality-of-life patrols and traffic stops. We need warrant sweeps. We will work with the state to focus more parole and probation officers on the city.

Again, government and police action is not enough. Our civic groups, our neighborhood organizations, our churches, our colleges and our businesses all must be partners in building more community among us. To that end, I have asked Leadership Greater Hartford to connect with groups in the region to organize a series of community conversations.

Yes, we will discuss the recent cowardly acts. But more important, we will discuss unity. The discussions, called "Hartford Cares," will be held the last week in June. More details will be shared in the very near future.

As these conversations take place, let us remember the outpouring of support that has come from across the city, state and nation. We thank everyone for their hopes and prayers and we thank everyone from schoolchildren to seniors for their cards, letters and inspirational murals.

What has happened in Hartford is not unique. It is an example of a national issue and growing trend that affects all towns and communities big and small. What will make Hartford different and stronger in the long run is what we do together, now that the camera glare has put us in the spotlight.

One thing is certain we showed outrage and now that outrage must be turned into positive action. As a community, we want justice. As a cherished American city, we want respect. And the only way to command that respect is to come together through our collective positive actions.

That is how Hartford will prevail and that is how Hartford will succeed. It is time, once again, to prove we are up to the challenge.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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