Remember the sea of denial that ran from Hartford's city hall to police headquarters to the school district's central office when an internal police memo painted a disturbing picture of a city infested with gangs?
How'd it go again? Oh yeah ...
Gang problem? Police Chief Daryl Roberts wondered.
What gang problem? Mayor Eddie Perez chimed in.
We don't got no stinking gang problem, added School Superintendent Steven Adamowski, as the trio insisted it was all a media-created myth.
Fast forward a few weeks and there's my colleague Edmund Mahony's story about a Latin Kings member's recent one-man crime spree.
Besides just being an interesting read, the story of 20-year-old Julio "J" Bonilla, sentenced Friday to more than four years in federal prison on drug charges, was a reminder of the lies city leaders keep telling themselves — and us — about the state of crime and gangs in the city.
Among Bonilla's many crimes was driving a truckload of fellow armed gang members in 2008 over to Affleck Street to retaliate against a rival member of Los Solidos. The confrontation left six wounded — including a 13-year-old.
City leaders will be happy to hear about one thing, though. Investigators agree with their assessment that the big-name gangs lack an "established leadership."
"Mostly fractured and disorganized," they said of the Kings.
But that certainly hasn't stemmed the havoc. Even that loosely knit affiliation has allowed the gangs to control the drug supply in various neighborhoods, prosecutors said — often with deadly results.
If that wasn't enough to prove that the rosy picture from city leaders just isn't jibing with the reality of the streets, more news came from the feds just a few days later.
Monday, Jose "Jo Jo" Gonzalez, who had already done a lengthy stint in federal prison for a crime stemming from a 1993 murder of a member of Los Solidos, pleaded guilty to gun possession.
In addition to the gun, which Gonzalez claimed he needed for protection, police found a photograph of Gonzalez with members of Los Solidos.
But hey, don't be alarmed. Everything's fine.
Just take it from one of the police department's mouthpieces, who responded to news that Hartford had cracked the top 25 in a list of cities with the worst crime rates in the country with this familiar refrain: Crime is down.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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