Story by: SAMMY WESTFALL
With the turn of the new year, the New Haven Police Department reflected on 2018 as a year of reduced crimes rates.
According to city data, the total number of violent crimes — consisting of homicides, felony sexual assault, robbery, assault with firearm and aggravated assault— has decreased from 982 total cases in 2017 to 912 total cases in 2018. Of those individual crime categories, the number of homicides and felony sexual assault crimes increased, while others saw considerable decreases. New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell presented the summary of the year’s crime statistics and trends at a press conference at the New Haven Police Department Thursday afternoon.
“Five years ago, halfway through the first month of my first term as mayor, I had already been to a funeral for a New Haven teenager — the victim of gun violence that was all too common at the time,” said Mayor Toni Harp standing at a podium at the New Haven Police Department. “Today I stand before you … to describe a much improved New Haven, a much safer New Haven, a city much better equipped to quash the scourge of gun violence.”
The Elm City has seen a reduction in nonfatal shooting cases over the decade. From 2003–06, New Haven saw an average of 111.5 nonfatal shooting victims, while between 2007–10, the average was 147.5. From 2011–14, the average nonfatal shooting rate decreased to 87.75, and then further decreased in 2015–18 to 60.25.
However, crime in other categories has seen modest rises since 2017. According to the NHPD, felony sexual assault cases increased from 40 to 47 and homicide rates increased from seven to 10 cases from 2017 to 2018. In 2011, New Haven saw 34 homicide cases and two years later, saw 20 cases.
After mentioning that some of the 2018 homicides were domestic violence cases, Campbell re-emphasized the need for a Family Justice Center, which would provide coordinated services for domestic violence victims in the city. The HOPE Family Justice Center for Greater New Haven held a soft opening in Nov. 2018 and continues to run in a temporary location on Dixwell Avenue.
Incidents of burglary, robbery with firearms, aggravated assault and assault with firearms victims also decreased this year. In addition, in the past two years, drug and narcotic cases, motor vehicle stops by the police and firearm discharges have all significantly diminished. However, rates of larceny from vehicles and motor vehicle theft have grown. This year, New Haven saw 50 victims from assault with firearms, 95 cases of robbery with firearms, 507 cases of aggravated assault, 632 cases of motor vehicle theft and 672 burglary incidents.
“There are lives that have been saved. There are lives that have been transformed. There are lives that are being elevated,” Campbell said at the press conference. “You can walk around this city and you can feel the change.”
Daniel Hunt, a New Haven high school graduate whose cousin was murdered in 2011, told the News that he walked out of the press conference feeling much better about the city and its progress. As a community volunteer, he is working alongside the NHPD to organize a citywide walk to strengthen police and community relations.
“With all the collaborative efforts, I feel like it’s working … I feel like the city is getting better, safer,” Hunt said.
Harp said that success in other areas of government flows from a sense of security and optimism — byproducts of feeling safe and confident. In addition, both Campbell and the mayor praised community organizations and agencies for playing a role in reducing the city’s crime rate. At Thursday’s press conference, Campbell specifically thanked partners, including those at the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Juvenile and Adult Probation, and the Yale University Police Department.
“When it comes to law enforcement and keeping an entire community safe, it takes a village of agencies working towards one goal of public safety and quality of life,” Campbell said.
Harp specifically pointed to Project Longevity as one of the initiatives that has made the community safer. The project “calls in” individuals to have face-to-face meetings with law enforcement, social service providers and community representatives to spread a message against gang violence, according to the initiative’s website.
Harp also noted that New Haven is making strides in education because “children aren’t distracted as much by violence as they once were in their neighborhood.”
Another program, Youth Stat, is a school-based intervention program in the city that seeks to improve school engagement and academic involvement of students at risk for school disengagement and juvenile justice involvement, according to its website. Campbell said that Youth Stat in New Haven works hand-in-hand with law enforcement officials to pair at-risk youth with summer employment and other extracurricular activities.
At the press conference, Campbell noted that the city has seen a decrease in crime even without a fully staffed NHPD. Currently, the police department is facing roughly 100 vacancies in its 495 budgeted positions. This is the third time that NHPD officers are entering a new year without a contract from the city, which Campbell described as a testimony to the caliber of officers in the community.
“The roughly 400 men and women have yet, once again, delivered on their promise to serve and protect — and to do so with integrity, pride, and an acknowledgement of the humanity that binds us all together,” Campbell said, motioning to 12 officers standing silently in uniform to his right.
Though Harp said she was pleased with the progress that New Haven has made, she asserted that city officials will continue to work towards making the Elm City safer.
“I’ve said to people around the country that we in New Haven have the best police department — not just in the state of Connecticut, but in the United States of America,” Harp said.
The New Haven Police Department is located on 1 Union Ave.