Crime Drops; Work Remains

Thomas MacMillan PhotoShootings are down. Property crime is down. Crime is down overall. To build on these gains, the city needs to pay attention to young black men and felons getting out of jail.

That was the word from Mayor John DeStefano (pictured), spoken at a Thursday afternoon press conference at police department headquarters on Union Avenue. He was joined by police Chief Dean Esserman and top department brass.

DeStefano shared the following year-to-date statistics, compared to last year at this time: Violent crime is down 10 percent, property crime is down 6 percent, crime is down overall by 6.5 percent.

Reports of shootings and shots fired have trended downward since 2011. The city has had 178 reports of shots fired so far this year, compared to 324 in the same time period in 2011. Non-fatal shootings and homicides are at half the 2011 level. The city has, however had one more homicide this year, for a total of 13, than at this point in 2012.

DeStefano noted that Chief Esserman (pictured) took over the police department two years ago this month. He highlighted Esserman’s efforts to bring back walking beats, create the shooting task force and the Criminal Intelligence Unit, re-institute the robbery and burglary unit and the domestic violence unit, beef up the crime analysis unit and weekly Compstat meetings, and launch the Project Longevity anti-gang-violence project.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Esserman said. “I think we’re doing good police work here.”

Esserman attributed the crime reductions in part to police building relationships and trust with the communities they serve.

DeStefano highlighted some other statistics as well, showing that non-fatal shootings are up among people in their 20s, and the vast majority of non-fatal shooting victims are black. Those two statistics point to the need for more long-term work, DeStefano said.

The city needs to work on prison re-entry, to help people returning to New Haven after incarceration and prevent recidivism. The city also needs to focus on young black men, in school.

“These behaviors don’t just happen,” DeStefano said. Often shooters show signs of trouble long before they touch a gun. “We have to support African-American men.”

He suggested enlisting Yale to help with “clinical interventions” targeting young black men.

While most crime statistics are down, motor vehicle thefts and thefts from auto are up by 15.9 and 10 percent, respectively. And drug and narcotics crime is up 6 percent.

“I hate cell phones,” said Esserman, when asked about the theft from auto increase. Cell phones are the target of one-third of robberies, Esserman said. And most people stealing from cars are taking cell phones or GPS devices. Esserman called cell phones “the bane of the existence of every American police chief.”

Assistant Chief Archie Generoso said drug crimes reports are up because “our beat guys are out there” collecting more information from neighbors.

“We have more work to do with drugs and narcotics,” Esserman said.

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posted by: Scot on October 3, 2013  4:25pm

It seems Esserman is doing a great job.

Is data available for a longer period? It would be interesting to see, for example, murders, shots fired, assaults, armed robberies, motor vehicle thefts, etc, for say 10 years (or as long as there is data for). Comparing this year to last without showing multiple years only says so much.

posted by: Rob Smuts on October 3, 2013  4:45pm


You can see past year crime data at: NHPD review.pdf

- Rob Smuts, Chief Administrative Officer

posted by: anonymous on October 3, 2013  4:57pm

Scot, yes, the year to year statistics are essentially useless. See the city’s 2013 report at NHPD review.pdf. Most of these trends for crimes like robbery, overall theft etc., could be characterized as being pretty flat. 

The exception is homicide, which is definitely happening significantly more frequently over the past several years, and recently, than it was in the early 2000s.

Homicide is what people pay attention to, because 100% of killings get reported, more or less.  The other numbers depend on what gets reported to the cops, and also can be manipulated to some degree (I do not suggest that the latter is happening here recently, but trends over a long period of time can be extremely misleading). 

The trouble with these citywide figures is that they don’t tell you all that much about neighborhoods.  In reality, wealthier neighborhoods in New Haven are much safer than they were 5-10 years ago, but certain other neighborhoods have much more crime and violence now than they did then. 

A better measure of all this might be asking people how safe they actually feel to walk down to their corner store at night.  This is the reason why we (and cities like us) have so many vacant storefronts in areas like Dixwell Avenue, which by any other measure, are great places to have a small business.

posted by: Bradley on October 3, 2013  7:51pm

Anonymous, I have been robbed at knife point, my house has been burgled, and my car broken into, the latter two in East Rock and Wooster Square, respectively. Do not imply that homicide is the only crime that people pay attention to. 

I have lived in East Rock for 25+ years and listened to the police department’s district manager’s crime report at monthly management team meetings for at least 10 years. Crime in the neighborhood has been stable in terms of frequency and type (very few crimes against persons, lots of car break-ins, a fair number of burglaries). Do you have any actual data that wealthier neighborhoods are “much safer” than they were 5-10 years ago, while other neighborhoods “have much more crime and violence now than they did then”?

While it is true that homicide statistics are inherently the most reliable and other types of crime are under-reported, I have seen no data that the under-reporting rate varies significantly from year to year. Do you have any actual data to the contrary or that there have been year-to-year changes in the “manipulation” of the crime data?

While the perception of crime is important to a city’s well-being, and empty storefronts can contribute to a sense of insecurity, empty storefronts are not dispositive. Most of the storefronts on Audobon Street are vacant, yet people continue to bring their kids to the Neighborhood Music School and Koffee is well ( and deservedly) patronized.  On the other hand, the vast majority of the storefronts on Grand Avenue are occupied, yet crime is a real problem in much of Fair Haven.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on October 3, 2013  7:53pm

How about bike thefts?
An article in The Independent in 1995 said it was epidemic.
When my bike was stolen recently, the officer said the same thing!
Clearly there are people routinely checking backyards, bikes chained to posts, bikes on car racks, etc. and grabbing the bikes and taking off.
How hard is it to set up a sting operation.
It’s like tying a goat to a stake to attract the mountain lion.
I appreciate the police work on the big issues, but would like to see more on the things that affect our quality of life on a daily basis.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on October 4, 2013  6:26am

I guess it makes sense that the soon to be former mayor would by-pass the indigenous institutions in the Black Community to help with issues supporting African-American youth and look to an institutions whose engagement with African-American men is tenuous, at best, since his primary engagement with African-Americans, and our churches, consisted of his exploting their willingness to sell-out the long-term success of the community for short-term personal gain. 

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee, Pastor
Immanuel Baptist Church
New Haven, CT

posted by: robn on October 4, 2013  6:47am


YES! Somehow our state traffic law appropriately recognizes bicycles as vehicles, but our criminal law inappropriately treats them as toys. Many people rely on bicycles to get to work. Bike theft should be treated much more harshly. For the naysayers, this isn’t a new yuppy phenomenon. See “Bicycle Thief” circa 1949.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on October 4, 2013  9:39am

It is a problem that has plagued New Haven for just over thirty years. Homicides and shootings were actually in only the single and double digits annually, prior to the early 80s, in New Haven. They were results of crimes of passion, or the tools of professional criminals against their own.

From 83 to 93, the shootings, along with the illegal narcotics traffic, and gang activity exploded onto New Haven, as well as most other large and mid-size cities throughout the country, and to this date, much of the developed nations of the world where people have disposable income.

20 years later, in New Haven, and the mayhem continues, with incremental, statistical numbers announced in press conferences to try and convince some of the public that a solution in taking place.

I am grateful for the efforts of all of the police officers who go out on the streets every day to interact with the public, whether they are on the Yale campus, or the middle of gang territory. I pray for their safety, and I pray for their families, that suffer with them, when they come home hurt, or worse. Without their efforts, I imagine not guns would be taken off the streets, and violence would not be prevented by them working their relationships with the friends and allies they have made in the inner city.

But overall, the big minds, the planners, the geniuses of law enforcement management, have been more of a detriment than a solutions. And I say this not to all the supervisors as there are those that were promoted that have not left the streets, have not isolated themselves in the management cocoon , but continued to be in the neighborhood, when they weren’t constantly being dragged in to brief their higher ups on whatever “problem” has been brought to their attention, while they sit in their offices, or spend their day smoozing politicians to advance their careers.

That consistently has been one, just one of the factors lacking in the application of any solutions for the violence.