July 7, 2005
By MATT BURGARD And TRACY GORDON FOX, Courant Staff Writers
On the first day of a highly touted effort to combat gun crime
in Hartford, a team of four state police troopers and four Hartford
officers set up a checkpoint at a North End intersection for
more than an hour Wednesday, stopping motorists to check for
The new checkpoints - the most visible of several tactics police are using
- are an effective way to heighten police visibility in troubled neighborhoods
while discouraging gunplay, officials said. While ticketing motorists for
failing to wear seat belts or other violations, police also search for drugs
and weapons, they said.
State police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance said the checkpoints
are a common tactic for combating outbreaks of crime in neighborhoods.
"It's a good deterrent and a good investigative tool," he
In addition to the small contingent of
troopers manning the checkpoint at the "Five Corners" intersection
on Westland Street, the state police have sent in detectives to Hartford
to help root out drug and gun trafficking, officials said.
Though police officials would not say how many state troopers have been
assigned to the crackdown in Hartford, sources in both agencies said the
total was fewer than a dozen uniformed troopers and undercover detectives.
That is much lower than in previous summers when state police helped crack
down on violent crime in the city.
State police are trying to keep overtime costs down, Vance said.
"We took them from where we could afford to take them," he
Commanders from the state and Hartford police met Wednesday morning to
discuss strategies for the troopers, but officials declined to give specifics
about their crackdown.
"We are not going to telegraph our [strategy] to the people who are
conducting criminal activity," Hartford police spokeswoman Nancy Mulroy
The arrival of the state police comes two weeks after Hartford police launched
an initiative in the Clay-Arsenal, Upper Albany and Northeast neighborhoods
to combat a spike in shootings and gun murders. That effort, which includes
foot patrols on troubled streets and stepped-up raids on drug houses and
gun dealers, has led to the arrests of 258 people on felony charges and
84 others on lesser offenses, Mulroy said. In the past week, Hartford police
have not responded to any shootings in the city, they said.
While some residents said they appreciated the visibility of Wednesday's
checkpoint, others complained that it resulted in petty harassment of motorists
for minor offenses.
"I can understand what they're trying to do, but I'm not part of the
gun problem up here," said Katrina Jackson, 20, of Manchester, who
was ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt after being stopped at
Kimberly Thomas-Amos said she moved from Hartford to Massachusetts seven
years ago because of the city's crime problems, but she recently agreed
to let her 16-year-old daughter spend the summer at her mother's home in
the North End.
"I guess she's going to be OK as long as all these police are out
here," Thomas-Amos said while walking past the checkpoint.
Petrina Stewart, a longtime resident on Martin Street, where two young
people were shot and killed in the past two months, said she has noticed
a difference since the Hartford police initiative began.
"It's been great," Stewart said. "The
only shooting sounds last weekend were the Fourth of July fireworks. The
police are everywhere."
Shootings and gun murders have risen by 50 percent this year over the same
period a year ago. That was on the minds of many in the North End as they
watched the police in action.
"It's actually helping bring customers because people feel safer coming
out of their homes," said Anthony Rojas, an employee at the Baez Mini
Market at the corner of Westland Street and Love Lane. "Things were
getting bad with all the violence, but it's quiet now."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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