50% Murder Drop Just “A Beginning”

Paul Bass PhotoNew Haven didn’t celebrate its year-end drop in crime Wednesday.

Instead, officials called the dramatic year-end numbers for 2012—a 50 percent drop in homicides and a 30 percent drop in non-fatal shootings from 2011—a signal that the city was smart to return to community policing.

“It’s a beginning,” Police Chief Dean Esserman said a City Hall press conference. “We have a ways to go.”

“We’re not where we need to be. We all want to do better,” said Mayor John DeStefano. “There’s a vibrancy I haven’t seen in a while [with] community partnerships. ... We’re headed in the right direction.”

Still, there was no mistaking the undercurrent of Wednesday’s press event, covered by all area TV outlets: After a couple of years of brutal carnage on the city’s streets and repeated grim-faced press release, New Haven had progress to report.

The number of homicides rose from 13 in 2009 to 24 in 2010, to 34 in 2011. In 2012 the city had 17 homicides, a 50 percent drop.

The city recorded 133 non-fatal shootings in 2011. It had 92 in 2012, roughly a 30 percent drop.

(Robberies did rise from 622 to 645.)

The mayor noted that the city was demanding change, a return to community policing, in 2011. He brought in Esserman with a mission to reconnect the cops with the community and get violence under control.

Toward that end, the department sent cops back to dedicated walking beats in all 10 police districts. It invited a wide range of community members to weekly “Compstat” crime-data-and-strategy sessions. It formed a shootings task force in conjunction with state and community agencies, resulting in arrests in older unsolved shootings as well as current ones that might have fallen below the radar in the past. At year’s end it began “Project Longevity,” an attack on gang violence launched in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office, and local ministers and grassroots groups. (Read about that here.)

DeStefano also noted that “Operation Bloodline,” the largest drug sweep in state history, took many alleged gangbangers off the streets. New Haven detectives in 2012 also made arrests in 19 homicides, 10 of them 2011 homicides.

Police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. credited the “hard work” of street cops and an increased level of help and trust from the community for helping to drive down violent crime this past year. He also mentioned the Compstat meetings, where district managers know they have to account for how they’re dealing with each individual major crime in their neighborhoods. “If it helps drop crime, what’s wrong with that?” he said.

To bring the crime numbers down further in 2013, the department, which has been short-staffed, plans to send all 40 newly minted officers into additional new neighborhood walking beats. It plans to train another 67 cops by year’s end. It plans to roll out Project Longevity to all the city’s gangs. It is also launching a new “Command College” to train supervisors better.

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posted by: anonymous on January 9, 2013  12:38pm

Signal versus noise. I hope as much as anyone that there are fewer shootings than the year before, and agree that a single homicide avoided is one enough to celebrate. 

But let’s be honest with ourselves about the numbers, rather than sycophants to City Hall.

The death count has bounced between 10-15 and 25-30 killings every year but has essentially averaged 20 homicides per year every year for a decade. 17 is still a higher number than many recent past years.

Any crime analyst not on the City Payroll will tell you that numbers this small (3 killings below the average) do not constitute a significant drop. 

Bottom line, 17 killings is still way too many and does not represent a significantly lower number than previous years.

posted by: darnell on January 9, 2013  1:42pm

Wow! I guess I should say that I am amazed by the chutzpah of the Mayor and his people regarding the drop in crime. When the numbers were rising, it was all the “communities” fault, since there was a perception that there was a “no snitch” mentality. Now that the numbers are dropping, it is because the Mayor is a genius. At least the Chief mentioned the community.

If you won’t take responsibility for the rise in crime don’t take credit for the drop.

posted by: JohnVelleca on January 9, 2013  2:05pm

A fifty percent reduction in homicides is very significant and deserves recognition.  If the standard is to hold our public safety officials accountable when violent crime surges, it only seems fair to commend them on significant reductions.  Congratulations to the enitre NHPD, officers(street cops) AND detectives.

posted by: Walt on January 9, 2013  2:24pm

It would be worthwhile to list homicide numbers for the last decade to show the true trend.

Personally,  I am a bit tired of the questionable,  made-up figures Anon tosses out almost daily on different topics and would like to see the real trend on at least this subject,

Maybe the true figures will back up Anon, maybe not

posted by: anonymous on January 9, 2013  2:50pm

John, a drop from the 10-year average of 3 killings, 50% off the year prior, is not significant. If it were a drop of 300 killings, 50% off hundreds from each of the years before in a city like Los Angeles, it would be significant… but we’re talking very small numbers here. It’s good to celebrate fewer killings but the difference simply isn’t significant, no matter how you cut it.

posted by: JohnVelleca on January 9, 2013  3:24pm

@Walt…anon is actually pretty close with those numbers.  Just an FYI…

posted by: Stylo on January 9, 2013  3:57pm

I don’t think the city published numbers between 2002-2008.

Crime overall is down quite a bit in 2012 vs. 1999.


posted by: anonymous on January 9, 2013  4:45pm

Stylo, Walt - The homicide and other crime numbers, going back decades, are posted on several State websites including DPS.

posted by: NHPDHartman on January 9, 2013  4:46pm

OK anonymous, We get it. Your comments “sycophants to City Hall”, “...not on the City Payroll”. Your position seems clear.

Using numbers is the simplest way to get the message out. Neither the NHPD or City Hall are celebrating victory - a very clear message at today’s conference. The message was this - 2011 was a particularly violent year that saw near record numbers of homicides. Although it’ll be quite some time before the reduced violent crime rate seen in 2012 can be deemed a pattern, there’s no mistaking certain new positives.

Since the return to community policing, Community & Police relationships have grown. Trusts are being strengthened and we’re seeing the results every day.

In my years as a cop, I’ve never seen as many positive directives and, thus far, successful new programs implemented to guide the efforts of a Police department and it’s Officers.

There are different styles of Police management, and with as many managers as we’ve had over the years, it should come as no surprise that the directives weren’t always clear or well received. One thing is certain. Chief Esserman’s directives are clear - crystal clear. The same as those of Assistant Chiefs Generoso, Reddish, Blanchard and Casanova.

The NHPD is comprised of a group of great cops who give their all to protect us.

Anonymous, You have every right to demand the best from your Police department. Perhaps a word of thanks and less muck-raking would work best.

posted by: Walt on January 9, 2013  5:22pm

Thanks John,  but if Stylo is right too,  the real figures for most of the decade are not available,——

Even with Anon’s figures,  it is 15%  below average and 50%  below last year,  still significant as you have said.

Let’s hope the trend continues

posted by: oldtimer on January 9, 2013  7:16pm

The backdrop for the news event has All the appearance of a political banner for the mayors reelection. The mayor continues to politicize the Police Department and it’s Officers with no shame.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on January 9, 2013  7:58pm

The Mayor is to be congratulated on his choice of Chief Esserman. Whatever the statistics, there are more police visible in the neighborhoods, although more should get out of their cars and actually walk the districts.
    Was that a New Haven officer I saw on a Segway tonight?
    I have seen several on bikes and on foot.
    The police are not responsible for the terrible legacy of poverty and broken homes.
    We need professional trained officers with roots in the community and a knowledge of the people here.
    Let’s acknowledge that something positive is in the works.

posted by: Guest on January 9, 2013  10:28pm

You can slice and dice numbers to make them look good no matter what. Maybe it was everyone involved that should get credit, not just the administration. I’m all for any drop in homicides even if its one. Maybe it was partly that this past year a large criminal operation was taken out of play.

Quality of life issues still remain unaddressed.

posted by: Solid45 on January 10, 2013  9:16am

The reduction in homicides is always a positive thing.  The real truth lies in neighborhoods, do the people feel safer.  Thats the question, one I cannot answer.

posted by: anonymous on January 10, 2013  10:48am

NHPDHartman, most of your claims are correct - particularly your statement that this is not a pattern. 

So the question is, why is the Mayor touting it as one?

Let’s have some honest reporting and discussion, not lies.  The honesty and integrity of the rhetoric should match the honesty and integrity of the front line officers.

posted by: NHPDHartman on January 10, 2013  3:35pm

Anonymous, To whom are your accusations of lying being directed to. Careful now.

posted by: Invictus on January 10, 2013  10:04pm

Well there were multiple federal cases… There was also the narcotics unit and SIU and all there cases.. The hard work of the detectives in ISU.. All which was supported by the all important Patrol.. Last year we didn’t have gangs but this year we have a war on gangs (Longevity)... So where’s the departments gang unit? Lets not talk about how many cops we are hiring but how many we are losing to other towns and why..

posted by: HhE on January 10, 2013  10:07pm

anonymous, wasn’t your plan to reduce crime in New Haven to law off officers, and use that money to employ people to clean up Newhallville?  Didn’t you have an idea, that if implemented, would reduce crime by 80%?

posted by: anonymous on January 11, 2013  1:18pm

HhE, laying off a few officers who live in the suburbs would be a good idea if the savings were used to reduce unemployment and provide hope to youth in Newhallville, instead of more squad cars speeding through their neighborhood. We spend tens of millions of dollars jailing people from Newhallville and almost nothing to improve the area or hire local residents.

NHPD, there are different types of dishonesty. Rather than wordsmithing, let’s work on getting some integrity at City Hall when it comes to crime trends versus noise. Nearly 100 shootings and almost 20 homicides in a year is ridiculously high, revealing the complete and utter failure of New Haven public safety strategies, and is barely different from the average, if at all. Integrity would boost respect for the Department and allow the people interested in real changes to move forward.