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Bring Back Civility

Hartford Courant Editorial

June 15, 2008

The craven cretins who put Angel Arce Torres on a respirator for the rest of his life and Nick Carbone in intensive care have done more than hurt two elderly, defenseless, good-hearted men. They have brought ignominy on the capital city and the state. They've set back a decade of hard work by thousands of people to make Hartford a welcoming community.

The people of this city can't let the criminals ruin it.

A week ago, The Courant asked readers for constructive comments on how to take back our city following a series of horrific crimes. Mr. Carbone, 71, a former deputy mayor, was attacked as he walked to breakfast less than a mile from the state Capitol. Mr. Torres, 78, was carrying a carton of milk when he was blindsided in a hit-and-run captured on video and seen around the nation. Meanwhile, there have been more than 90 shooting victims in the city so far this year.

Though some readers used the opportunity to attack the city under the cover of anonymity, others offered solutions, often harsh but necessary. Said the parent of a Trinity College student: "I ... head up the hill to Trinity by the exact same garbage that was never picked up for nearly a year at that spot. Pick it up!"

Said another reader: "Enact some of the policies [then Chief William] Bratton and [Mayor Rudi] Giuliani initiated in NYC in the mid-'90s. ... [D]on't put up with petty crimes and enforce the laws I'm sure are already on the books that compel property owners to clean up their acts (the broken window approach)."

City council member Luis Cotto wondered in an eloquent essay on these pages whether the video of the hit-and-run was the tipping point that would make Hartford show the world "that we are not the callous, uncaring, unconnected people who walk by the man who needs our help." Mayor Eddie A. Perez is reaching out to neighborhood groups through Leadership Greater Hartford, as he says in his Commentary essay today, to turn outrage into action.

Civic and religious leaders can be great countervailing forces to the disturbing behavior shown in the video images of Hartford that seeped into living rooms around the nation. But, as everyone knows, leaders can't do it all. The people of Hartford have to be the civil army that restores the peace, picks up the litter, tells noisemakers to pipe down, and drops the dime on truants and criminals who attack senior citizens and shoot their fellows.

The state has spent three-quarters of a billion dollars improving the city with new housing, a science and convention center, a state-of-the-art library, a beautiful riverfront. Then come thugs who, in a week, befoul a reputation that has taken a decade to build. Fight back, Hartford. Don't let them win.

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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