August 3, 2005
By STEPHANIE REITZ, Courant Staff Writer
The number of shootings on Hartford streets has dropped significantly
in the weeks since city police launched an initiative to blanket
troubled neighborhoods with more patrols.
According to new statistics released Tuesday by the Hartford Police Department,
some of the most noticeable decreases took place in the Upper Albany,
Clay Arsenal and Northeast neighborhoods, the targets of the department's
new Northeast Violence Reduction Initiative.
The initiative, which the department launched June 22, was a
response to a spiraling increase this spring in shootings on Hartford
After the city initiative began, state troopers were called in to bolster
patrols, more uniformed and plainclothes officers were sent to the streets
and special investigations into drug and gun trafficking were launched.
Similar crackdowns with help from the state police took place in 2001
and 2003, resulting in immediate decreases in violent crime.
Hartford Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett credited the decrease not only
to the neighborhoods initiative, but to the efforts of the individual
officers walking the beats, working undercover and teaming up with state
and federal officers.
"I think it's been a real win-win: good for the police, but most
of all, good for the people who live in the neighborhoods where the violence
had been occurring," Harnett said. "It's not just [declining]
in the Northeast. Crime throughout the city is really going in
the right direction."
State Police Sgt. J. Paul Vance said
Tuesday that state police have not yet been told when their
troopers will leave Hartford, and that they will stay "as long as
it's deemed necessary" to
help the Hartford officers.
"We work with each other in harmony, and the combined presence seems
to be having a positive impact in the community," Vance said. "The
progress we've been making has been very notable."
Although the number of shootings has dropped citywide since the initiative
started in June, the decrease is particularly noticeable in the North
End neighborhoods targeted by the initiative, according to department
In the 28 days before June 25, there were 14 shootings in which 15 people
were injured in that area, and three people were killed. In the 28 days
preceding July 30, there were three shootings with three injured victims
in the same area, and no homicides in those neighborhoods.
The city's most recent homicide occurred July 15 in the city's South
As of Tuesday evening, two people had been reported shot this week in
Hartford: a woman shot in the leg Sunday on Huntington Street, and a man
grazed by a shotgun blast early Tuesday on Baltimore Street. Neither victim's
injuries were life-threatening, police said.
In Tuesday's shooting, the victim said
three men drove up in a van shortly after 5 a.m. and demanded an "eight ball," or
one-eighth of an ounce of cocaine, police said. When a man said that
he had none, another man opened the van door and fired a shotgun, police
The shot grazed the victim's back as he ran away. The man, whose name
was not given by police, was treated at Hartford Hospital and released.
The street where the shooting occurred is in the city's North End, part
of the violence-reduction initiative's territory.
The Rev. Donald Johnson, leader of the HOPE Street Ministries anti-violence
group, said he and others have seen a noticeable decrease in tension throughout
the area. People are especially pleased by the foot patrols and the chance
to get to know the neighborhood officers, he said.
"They're not in a cruiser where you have to flag them down. You
can just say hello, and `how's it going?'" Johnson said.
But although residents are pleased by the increased patrols and the calm
that they seem to have fostered, they are also nervous about whether Hartford
will have enough officers to maintain that peace once the state troopers
leave, Johnson said.
Also, Johnson said, many people still worry that young residents have
few opportunities that could help deter them from trouble, such as good
jobs and safe, fun social activities.
"The worry is whether this is a quick fix, or medicating the problem," Johnson
said. "The evidence is proven that with the right amount of personnel,
you can get done what you need done."
As of July 30, police had seized 190 illegal guns during 2005, department
spokeswoman Nancy Mulroy said. Many were confiscated during investigations
by an anti-gun task force that the department formed earlier this year
with agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearmsand Explosives.
Harnett said he does not want to be lulled into a false sense of security
by the most recent statistics, knowing that spikes can re-occur at any
time. He said that if that happens, the department will rely on its neighborhood
policing plan and other measures to squelch problems again.
"You can never rest on your laurels in police work," he
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at