Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts took a lot of criticism in June when, in the wake of four homicides over Father's Day weekend, he broke with tradition and declined the help of state troopers to patrol the streets this summer.
Typically, more than 20 uniformed state police officers accompanied Hartford officers on overtime pay between early June and the final week of August.
What would have been this year's state police patrol period is now over. Crime statistics during that time show that the chief's gambit paid off.
Overall crime from June 17 to Aug. 25 dropped nearly 20 percent from what it was last year when the troopers were called. Except for homicide, a crime of passion that often doesn't respond to police presence, every category of crime, including violent crimes such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault, dropped dramatically.
Many factors went into achieving that result. Hartford, for example, was one of 29 cities in the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Violent Crime Impact Team program for tracking down gun traffickers. Since June 17, Hartford has ranked in the top three in arrests and firearms recovered, ahead of Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
But the main factor has been that, under what the chief called his Safe Summer Initiative, the city essentially authorized loads of overtime to saturate the streets with officers on foot patrol and on bicycles. The officers spent much of their time instilling fear into the hearts of known gang members.
The results should provide a big morale boost for the department.
Even after passing up the state troopers, Chief Roberts left open the possibility of calling them in if his plan didn't yield the desired results within three weeks. It's an option that should always be kept open.
But bet that, if the Safe Summer Initiative had failed, there would be no end to the I-told-you-so comments that the chief would have had to endure. Now it's his turn to say, I told you so. We're glad he was right.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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