Meet the Chief After a six-month absence, Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts is blogging again
February 24, 2009
Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts launched his blog on May 19, 2008, with a discussion of crime statistics, including a map of 188 gun-related incidents between March 16 and May 14 and an index of 1st Quarter crimes.
The posting drew 11 comments, all of them positive, and one, from "Your friend, Mike Skevos," that began: "Hey Daryl, Nice to see 'local boy does good.' I was in your homeroom at Bulkeley (class of '77) and always thought you had that 'extra' that the rest of the people needed."
Although six months went by from the chief's last blog posting on Aug. 15 to the relaunch of his blog on Feb. 13, Roberts said in an interview with the Advocate that he's a believer in technology, and in new forms of communication.
"I'm a neophyte at this. I'm a patrolman that came up through the ranks, but I'm a student of listening to the public," said Roberts. "You have to reach people where they are."
And where they are, said Roberts, is on the World Wide Web, where even gangs have Web sites they use to recruit new members.
"This is the communication of the future," said Roberts. "We have to get in front of it, or at least keep up."
Roberts is indeed a hometown product, raised in Hartford along with seven brothers by his single mother, who still lives on Hungerford Street, and who understandably ran a tight ship. Roberts also has three half-brothers and three half-sisters.
"We had rules in my house," said Roberts. "Number one, you went to school. It was not optional."
Arriving home on a school night, Roberts said he had to finish his homework and clean his room before going out to play, and when the streetlights came on, it was time to return home for dinner, or else.
"If you weren't home [on time] you didn't eat and you cleaned up the kitchen," said Roberts. "It happened to me a couple of times."
By comparison, the curfew that Roberts initiated last August must have seemed relatively lenient to the chief. It required anyone under the age of 18 to be off the streets after 9 p.m., and if you weren't, you were picked up and delivered to your parents.
The Aug. 14 curfew came in response to a shooting at the West Indian Day parade on Aug. 9 that resulted in the death of 21-year-old Ezekiel Roberts. Michael Ledbetter, 17, was arrested a few weeks later and charged with Roberts' murder. Six other young people, including a 15-month-old infant, were injured in the hail of bullets targeting Roberts, who was a distant relative of the chief, according to a story in the Hartford Courant.
Chief Roberts wrote about the curfew in his 11th and final blog posting on Aug. 15. He received just one comment, from Nick K.D. Chaleunphone, who wrote, "Chief, the curfew is not working because all those teens are moving to New Britain or towns around Hartford to avoid the curfew."
Nonetheless, Mayor Eddie Perez renewed the 30-day curfew in September, saying he believed it had worked. Roberts reported that 119 curfew violators were picked up and delivered to their parents during the first 30 days, and that four repeat offenders were given citations. Roberts also reported a dramatic drop in gun violence, a 54 percent decrease in the number of people shot in August, and only one teenager involved in a shooting.
The chief's blog reappeared last week with an invitation to visit the Hartford Police Department's new Web site, and a discussion of Hartford Crime Stoppers, which has been splashed all over digital billboards in the Hartford area.
"I had to focus my energies on trying to gain some control on our young people, who were committing horrendous crimes against each other," said Roberts, explaining the gap in his postings.
In his Feb. 13 posting, Roberts says it's his intention to write as often as he can.
"Please share your thoughts, concerns, or problems in our community or with the department you wish me to address," he writes.
As for the curfew, Roberts said it was never lifted.
"We didn't tell people it ended," he said. "It's still on the books; if we need to bring it back, we can."