HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Murders are down in Connecticut, as well as other crimes such as rape, robbery and aggravated assault, according to a new report compiled for Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The 2014 midyear update on the state’s crime trends, prepared by Malloy’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, indicates there were 86 murders in 2013, a 32 percent reduction from 129 murders 2011 and the second lowest total in 40 years. There were 146 murders in 2012, a figure that includes victims from the mass school shooting in Newtown.
Michael Lawlor, whose office compiled the report using data collected by state and local police and the FBI, said Thursday there has been a focus on reducing murders in the state’s three major cities of Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven. The report defines murder as a willful, non-negligent killing.
“It looks like we’re continuing to trend down with murders and shootings for that matter, non-fatal shootings are decreasing, too,” Lawlor said.
The report shows that of the 129 murders committed in Connecticut in 2011, 81 occurred in those three cities. In 2013, that number dropped to 56, marking a 31 percent decrease. Lawlor said it appears the number of murders for this year will end up being lower. He credits initiatives such as Project Longevity, which targets the 300 to 400 most violent gang members located in those three cities, as well as community policing and regaining the confidence of minority communities.
Meanwhile, FBI statistics show so-called index crimes, which include crime involving victims, such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson, dropped 11.2 percent in Connecticut between 2008 and 2012.
Lawlor’s report comes as Malloy seeks a second term in office. His Republican rival, Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, has called for a greater focus on Connecticut’s cities. Besides improved education, housing stock and job opportunities, Foley has said crime reduction is necessary.
“Violent crime rates are coming down across the nation by about the same amount as in Connecticut,” Foley said. “But a stubborn fact is that the FBI recently rated Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport as three of the top six cities in the nation with the highest crime rates with populations under 200,000. Citizens who are afraid to leave their homes at night won’t be comforted by Mr. Lawlor’s upbeat report. Nor will mothers in neighborhoods where minority youths are being shot and killed at an alarming rate.”
Legislative Republicans have criticized Malloy for his administration’s Risk Reduction Earned Credits program, which was approved by the General Assembly in 2011, calling for its repeal. The law allows inmates to earn credits for complying with various programs, as well as for accompanying good behavior.
The critics point to the case of Frankie Resto, who was sentenced in February to 53 years in prison for shooting a Meriden convenience store owner to death. Resto was released from prison two months before the killings after finishing a six-year sentence for another robbery. He had earned 199 early release days.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney referred to the credit program during his concession speech Tuesday, following his loss in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
“Violent offenders have been let out of jail to roam our streets because of Dan Malloy,” McKinney said.
But Lawlor contends that since a 2008 law, enacted after the deadly Cheshire home invasion, the Department of Correction and the Board of Pardons and Parole have been required to identify the highest risk, most dangerous offenders and keep them in prison longer while providing incentives, such as the risk reduction credits, to lower the chances they will recommit a crime after leaving prison. He said DOC and the parole board started the efforts in earnest in January 2011, using state-of-the-art risk assessment tools to sort out inmates.
“It is an absolute fact that these kinds of offenders are doing more time now than they were before, that’s just a fact,” said Lawlor, who has challenged critics to find an offender who committed a violent crime and was released before serving 85 percent of their sentence.
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