No More Mr. Nice Guys

Paul Bass PhotoSaying that “collaboration” didn’t work, the mayor and police chief vowed a crackdown on Crown Street clubs and clubgoers in the wake of last weekend’s shoot-out with the cops.

Police Chief Frank Limon (at center in top photo) and Mayor John DeStefano announced the crackdown Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at the entrance to the Crown Street Garage.

They stood at the spot where a fight may have started between two groups of young men shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday and escalated into a shoot-out that involved the cops.

Limon and DeStefano responded to intense public concern and calls for action in town following the incident, in which dozens of shots appear to have been fired once the fight moved around the corner to College Street. The cops fired some of those bullets. Two men allegedly involved in the fight were injured in the incident; the details remain largely unclear as the police continue investigating. (Read about what officials have disclosed so far, and the public reaction, in this story.)

DeStefano said he takes “some ownership” of how “misbehavior” has raged out of control in the Crown Street club district. “I wasn’t aggressive enough” in trying to work out a plan for greater enforcement with district club owners. “We’re not going to proceed in a collaborative and voluntary fashion anymore,” he declared.

“We won’t tolerate the misbehavior we saw this weekend,” Limon said. “As the mayor said, this nonsense must stop.”

In the next few weeks, the public can expect to see the following happen, according to DeStefano and Limon:

• Stepped-up police enforcement. Extra duty cops will saturate the district with traffic enforcement stops and enforcement of loitering and public drinking laws and spend increased time in “corridors” between parking lots and around clubs, where much of the recent violence has gravitated from inside the clubs.

• Health officials will crack down on noise levels and sanitary conditions at clubs.

• Investigators will check for underage patrons in bars.

• Clubs holding events that draw especially rowdy or young crowds, such as “foam night” or “dollar pitcher” promotions, will draw special scrutiny.

• The fire marshal will hunt for clubs exceeding legal occupancy.

That’s the short-term strategy—to “reset the quality of life downtown just as we have in other neighborhoods,” DeStefano said. He made a point Tuesday of noting that the city has taken similar steps in Newhallville and Wooster Square, cracking down on clubs like Taurus Cafe and Joker’s Wild.

Longer-term, DeStefano vowed to push the state legislature for permission to create a downtown club zone where the city can levy special fees to pay for overtime police protection and a regular district manager and other top cops who’ll work closely with clubowners and neighbors.

The mayor recently met with club owners to try to convince them to participate in such a system voluntarily. The meeting dissolved into arguments, and DeStefano left without a resolution.

“In our desire to be collaborative and bring people in, that strategy was not as effective as what people are going to see in coming weeks,” he said. He called on state legislators to give the city the needed legal permission to proceed with the district in next year’s upcoming session.

New Haven State Reps. Juan Candelaria and Gary Holder-Winfield (pictured at the press conference) said afterward that they support the concept and expect to push to pass the proposal. Holder-Winfield said he wants to see the fine print of DeStefano’s proposal before committing, and said he hopes to get it soon so he can get to work on it.

An estimated 14,000 people filled the Crown Street district last Saturday night and early Sunday morning, including 2,000 bused in from Quinnipiac University, according to top downtown cop Lt. Rebecca Sweeney. DeStefano said it costs the city $500,000 a year to police the district.

Mixed Reaction

After hearing the mayor’s presentation, Downtown management team Chairman Doug Hausladen, who lives in Crown Towers, called instead for a beefed-up permanent regular-duty police detail in the district working Wednesday through Saturday nights.

“Why is the answer from City Hall that we should pay overtime hours?” he said.

DeStefano responded that he has a set number of cops and he can’t take away from other parts of the city to police downtown more. He wants the clubs that draw the crowds that cause trouble to pony up to pay the extra-duty costs; he said fees would be based on occupancy and type of activity that takes place in clubs. He emphasized that many club owners downtown operate responsibly.

H. Richter Elser (at left in photo with Yale/downtown Alderman Mike Jones), the former owner of Richter’s and the Republican town chairman, applauded DeStefano’s announcement of stepped-up enforcement.

So did Andy Behm, manager of Static, the club across the street from the press conference. Initial reports were that Sunday morning’s brawl might have started in the street outside the club; Behm said the participants (some of whom were under 21) never entered the club.

“They should crack down on the street,“said Behm (pictured at the top of the story in Static’s basement office, where he was checking security footage). “They need to. We do our part to ensure everyone’s safe inside.”

His security guards also clear the area right in front of the club, he said.

But they can’t control people who cause trouble up and down the street, he said. He said police should take particular aim at people who “are rejected from a few clubs” but remain in the district. “You see the same person moseying around for two hours.”

DeStefano said that if a fight happens outside a club like Static, rather than inside, officials still plan to turn up the heat, enforcing the noise ordinance, for instance.

“You’ve created an atmosphere where [troublemakers] can hang out and create a disturbance,” DeStefano said of the clubs, without naming names.

“They’re unfairly targeting the clubs. They’re trying to finger somebody,” Static’s Behm responded.

“They want to make it look like New Haven’s a safe city in the public eye. New Haven is a safe city. There have been multiple isolated incidents” that create a different impression, he said.

Behm said Static aims to attract males “over 21.” It has a college night on Thursdays—as does most of the district, he noted. It stopped holding under-age events after a coat-drive fundraiser last December attracted a crowd that allegedly participated in a brawl outside afterward; that incident led Alderwoman Jackie James to call for an end to such events.

DeStefano was also asked Tuesday about suggestions from some Independent readers that the city create a nightclub district away from downtown, perhaps on Long Wharf.

“I don’t think it’s an issue of location ... It’s the behavior,” he responded.

“We’ve confronted this before successfully. We will again.”

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posted by: Jonathan Swift on September 21, 2010  6:23pm

Airport style security measures (bag scanners and walk-through) manned by NHPD cops, equipment and cops paid for by the club owners.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on September 21, 2010  7:40pm

I posted a comment to the original story just before this one appeared.  I predicted some of the steps the City would take to address the issues in the Crown Street Bar/Club area.

Though it is admirable that DeStefano is now accepting some of the responsibility for not reacting to the issues before, why was it this past weekend’s events that finally got his head out of the sand?

I urge the City to walk the walk, instead of just doing the talking about this.  Don’t be like Dean Wormer and put the “Delta House” on Double Secret Probation.  If the bars and clubs can not adhere to the rules and regulations they are told to play by, take them out of the game.  Have them all sign agreements of what is expected of them and hold them to it. 

One thing that must occur is that “Juice Nights” or any underage mingling in the bars/clubs must be terminated.  Pass a City Ordinance prohibiting any of these establishments from holding these events.  I’m not sure the NHI audience is aware that these clubs have kids as young as 11 and 12 years old attending these functions.  It is an absolute no-brainer that there is no need for kids this young to be present in that environment.

There are not enough members in the NHPD to properly deal with the way Crown Street is on those three nights of the week.  I think many of the NHI readers have not the first clue about how many Cops are needed for the Midnight Shift, without being assigned to Crown Street during those hours.  It can not be done with only those Officers on duty.

It is a delicate balance trying to deal with the overwhelming numbers of people, most drunk and/or high, at and leading up to, closing time on Crown Street.  Good luck to the NHPD and YPD in dealing with this.  I hope the City finally decides to not just make a one or two week push on this situation.

posted by: louis on September 21, 2010  8:40pm

This is an excellent response by the mayor and police chief. Like him or not, sometimes the mayor hits the nail on the head. The police response on the night of the shooting should be applauded as well. NHPD was right there, and when bullets were flying, they ran towards the violence, and engaged some predators in a gun battle. Of course, the criminal/cowards ran away. THANK YOU officers, for putting your lives on the line.

posted by: Doyens on September 21, 2010  9:01pm

DeStefano gets the gold star for taking action. I agree with bolder, tougher crackdowns and enforcement. I do not agree with more taxes. We have the largest cop shop in the state and it is the second largest city budget. There is plenty of money. It’s time to permanently deploy the proper number of cops to control the club district and do it on a permanent basis. That’s how NYC got control of Times Square. The cops are still there and life is thriving.

posted by: Jp on September 21, 2010  10:21pm

Actually the reason this stuff is happening away from the clubs now is that they leave the guns in their car so airport type security would not help. Paul above it say phone nights that should be foam nights.

[Thanks! Shows you what I know about Crown Street after dark…—P]

posted by: dan on September 21, 2010  10:35pm

It is about time the mayor has decided to give up on working with the club owners…This whole we want this and I want that does not work.  Mayor: this is your city you need to remember that what you and your alderman decide goes, stop trying to negotiate with the owners and just do it.  I do wonder however why the things you have outlined as stepped up enforcement have not been a priority on a weekly basis.  Many of these clubs exceed capacity on a nightly basis yet they continue to cram people in, people drinking underage in these clubs happens all the time yet rarely do you see the police enforce it except after something like this happens.  It is time for the City of New Haven to call the shots and regain control of the downtown area.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 21, 2010  10:52pm

“DeStefano said he takes “some ownership” of how “misbehavior” has raged out of control in the Crown Street club district. “I wasn’t aggressive enough” in trying to work out a plan for greater enforcement with district club owners.”
Wow! Do you also take “some ownership” of the shootings that occur in other parts of the city mayor? When the problems happen downtown, he takes ownership, but when they happen uptown, he blames others. You can’t have it both ways mayor.

posted by: Lifer on September 21, 2010  10:55pm

If they move this mess to Long Wharf we’ll have people shooting at each other on I-95 instead of Crown St.

posted by: Blame Game on September 21, 2010  11:49pm

While this “crackdown” is long overdue, I applaud the effort.  I suppose the coming weekend will reference how dedicated this effort will be. We’ll all be watching.

Two things: first, it’s about time for the club owner’s to step up and take part of the responsibility.  If the district is drawing 14,000 patrons, multiply that by the cover charge and you get a sense of why this outrage has continued.  Bottom line, as usual, is dollars.  A LOT of dollars apparently.  Mr. Behm, am I supposed to feel sorry for you?  Please.  The clubs aren’t being “unfairly targeted”, the problem would not exist in this area without the club’s presence.  Downtown venues are welcome and needed, but they must be accompanied by awareness of how they affect a neighborhood.  You need to be a part of correcting the problem instead of crying foul.

Second:  in the previous incarnation of this article a lot of readers expressed concern about the competence of the NHPD.  I suggest this:  Go buy a scanner and listen to what these men and women go through and deal with on a daily basis.  The things that often don’t get reported in local media.  I’ll bet you a steak dinner (though not on Crown St.)  that you’ll find these Officers as nothing but professional and competent in all encounters they face.  In short, don’t blame them.  They’re just dealing with what’s been created.

posted by: fedupinnewhaven on September 22, 2010  9:01am

It is absolutely preposterous that Lt. Sweeney claims that there were 14,000 people in the bar district on this past Saturday evening. J… It also seems a bit suspect that the mayor claims that we spend 500,000 thousand dollars on policing this area already. We all know how numbers can be massaged. I am so tired of this administration and there incompetent choices to run this city. Solving these problems are simple, DWI checkpoints on every corner, tagging and towing of illegally parked cars, aggressive enforcement of public drunkenness laws, as a city, with enough enforcement, we could turn this problem from a money loser to a revenue generator while stopping this problem in it’s tracks.

posted by: Townie on September 22, 2010  9:06am

This seems like an over-reaction. The shootings that have occurred were isolated incidents. The club and bar owners have little control over what people do outside of their establishments and they should not be responsible for them. Furthermore they should not have to pay any extra fee or tax, I am sure they pay enough taxes as it is. Any area with a high concentration of clubs and bars, especially in a college towne, is going to see rough behavior. It is what it is. Shootings are not the norm. The Mayor and the Police Department are just reacting to the bad press. So are some of the citizens.
However, this underscores a very real defect in the city’s policing policies. The Police Department and the administration still operate as a reactive force and usually their reactions are stronger for the more affluent areas of the city. True reduction of crime will only come from concentrated efforts that involve multiple agencies and community organizations, as well as an increase in the citizen’s awareness of civic responsibility and, simply put, good manners. New Haven is a relatively safe place, but it could be a lot safer. The Mayor, the Police Department and the Citizens, would benefit from a reevaluation of the city’s crime rates and a re-concentration, and a commitment to, community-wide effort at true and lasting crime prevention.

posted by: Moira on September 22, 2010  9:28am

@ Doyens—exactly. Relocating the club district isn’t the answer. But increasing the policing of drunken crowds in upwards of 14,000 is the way to go. If Giuliani’s approach worked for Times Square, it can certainly work on three blocks of Crown St.

I’m glad that DeStefano took some responsibility for the situation, too: “I wasn’t aggressive enough” in trying to work out a plan for greater enforcement with district club owners.

We needed to hear that from him. I never faulted him for the acts of violence. Instead, I was disappointed by what had until yeserday appeared to be a lackluster approach to finding a solution.

Now if only we can get people to stop trying to kill each other AND the cops who are just trying to corral the B.S. and keep everyone, including themselves, safe.

posted by: Reality Check on September 22, 2010  9:36am

14,000 partying. Just read the occupancy numbers in the August 23 story and add them up All the downtown clubs and bars are less than 5,000. What’s the real story. Are the cops exaggerating to get more money and manpower. Are the clubs taking in 3 or 4 times as many people as they are allowed. This incident should be investigated by the State Police or the FBI.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 22, 2010  10:16am

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 21, 2010 10:52pm
“DeStefano said he takes “some ownership” of how “misbehavior” has raged out of control in the Crown Street club district. “I wasn’t aggressive enough” in trying to work out a plan for greater enforcement with district club owners.”
Wow! Do you also take “some ownership” of the shootings that occur in other parts of the city mayor? When the problems happen downtown, he takes ownership, but when they happen uptown, he blames others. You can’t have it both ways mayor
... Since you are in the Big ATL what is the mayor of ATL doing about this.

posted by: Bishop on September 22, 2010  11:02am

Where is the Fire Departments public safety compliance officer, no matter if there is 250 people. With 14,000 people it creates a public safety liability on the city’s part. Code enforcement’s must be enforced.
Another avenue for funding is taxing the property owners that rent to these businesses. It would most likely be surprising to all who the Owner’s of these buildings are.

posted by: new haven city on September 22, 2010  11:11am

“I wasn’t aggressive enough” in trying to work out a plan for greater enforcement with district club owners. “We’re not going to proceed in a collaborative and voluntary fashion anymore,” he declared. Well the plan that was presented was sloppy, ill presented open ended with no real solutions other than having taxpayers pay more for something the city has an obligation to provide. Once more it’s the Mayor and his band of toadies attempting to bully people. Come up with a workable solution and stop the city’s method of mob rule and maybe something could be accomplished.
“Longer-term, DeStefano vowed to push the state legislature for permission to create a downtown club zone where the city can levy special fees to pay for overtime police protection and a regular district manager and other top cops who’ll work closely with clubowners and neighbors.”
Once more Destefano attempts to pass responsibility off on others. The plan he has presented why was this never done before the problem it no suddenly happen overnight this summer it has be a long ongoing disaster.
“We won’t tolerate the misbehavior we saw this weekend,” Limon said. “As the mayor said, this nonsense must stop.” Frank how about doing something about the misbehavior in YOUR OWN HOUSE, the DEPARTMENT you are running has no direction is apathetic and reactionary. Where is that Narcotics Unit that was so highly pushed, robbery unit, investigative unit?? Maybe if more was done in other parts of the city and the police department was more proactive some of the actions downtown could be prevented.  Stop with these open ended statements about your plans and get some real police work done.
And again the cost to the taxpayers of the city, were the money going to come from to pay for this, the city is on the brink of bankruptcy, taxpayers are overburdened, the Police Department, Fire Department are in reality are going to be facing inevitable cutbacks/layoffs in the coming budget. Taking on duty officers from the other parts of the city again to another dog and pony show of the mayors.
We the taxpayers and the residents of New Haven must take a major blame for this and the other problems we have kept a administration in office way to long that has created its own empire , long ignored the whole city’s health , but then again the next person going into City Hall will have a impossible task of rebuilding a 20 year mess.. no wonder there are no takers.

posted by: Outsider on September 22, 2010  1:09pm

...“But they can’t control people who cause trouble up and down the street, he said. He said police should take particular aim at people who “are rejected from a few clubs” but remain in the district. “You see the same person moseying around for two hours.””

This is the real issue… I agree that the clubs/restaurants need to do their part controlling underage drinking, excessive drinking and rowdy behavior but folks that just migrate to the area without the intent to patronize the businesses and loiter looking for a target of opportunity need to be squeezed harder.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 22, 2010  1:31pm

Why did the founding fathers pick the number three-fifths for the Three-Fifths Compromise? Both sides disagreed, so they were forced to compromise. They agreed that slaves would count as three-fifths of a person.
Now I understand you better!

posted by: Anon on September 22, 2010  1:49pm

The damage is done. Among some great restaurants and clubs on Crown, are a slew of loser establishments focused only on making their investors money. The restaurant patrons especially are traumatized.

Patrons at Pacifico hit the ground and bullets hit the restaurant’s windows. You think you are going to get all of those customers back? Not on your life.

As for this:

““They want to make it look like New Haven’s a safe city in the public eye. New Haven is a safe city. There have been multiple isolated incidents” that create a different impression, he said.”

You have GOT to be kidding me. This guy shouldn’t waste his time spinning records, he could be a flack for BP, British Petro. “Multiple isolated” there’s an oxymoron

posted by: Anon on September 22, 2010  1:54pm

How about special zoning area in Crown area limiting the number of nightclubs. as a club closes, another won’t necessarily be able to take its place. There are too many clubs there.

posted by: Anon on September 22, 2010  2:12pm

Zoning, the more I think about it the more I think we need a zoning solution.

Because we have allowed this high a concentration of clubs, we now have to have a very intense police presence to keep it safe. That is a turn off in itself to some degree and some business is lost. Lots of people would rather go somewhere less crazy for dinner than next to, or in that environment.

So, I agree we need this policing solution now. A shootout like that definitely leads to permanently lost business.

But in the long run, this district needs a zoning overlay with very special rules limiting the number of clubs.

The comeback downtown and of Crown st was fabulous before it went overboard on the clubs.

I grew up going to chapel square mall. After the shooting happened in that mall, my family never went there again, ever. And we don’t know any other families that did either.

The mayor has to take the action he is taking, but should also realize that this highly policed district’s problems, even the fact of it needing to be highly policed, is a massive turn off and threatens to cut deeply, really deeply into the commercial success of this area.

So, I think the mayor should waste no time proposing drastic zoning measures that will be pro business, but clip the clubs back. It also is the only way he will be able eventually to save on the cost of policing this district. And I think he needs to do it soon to preserve the image of downtown as a vibrant destination.

Going to the state for permission to tax them is fine, but ultimately, zone it better.

posted by: Ben Berkowitz on September 22, 2010  2:20pm

The damage is definitely done.

posted by: Rob Smuts on September 22, 2010  2:38pm

A couple clarifications for the discussion:

Total capacity of establishments with liquor licenses downtown is about 15,000.  Many of them are restaurants, etc that were not at capacity (or open) at 1:30am on Sunday morning, but there were likely some places over capacity, many people at pizza places and the like or milling around.  Looking at all the numbers in detail I think 14,000 is probably an overstatement, but not by much.

When we started looking at a more robust bar detail in 2008, the PD would pay for an average of four police officers (in addition to however many the clubs hired extra duty), which worked out to about $200,000 in annual costs to City taxpayers (based on 4-5 hours per night, Th, F and Sa).  $200,000 was established as the baseline and communicated to the clubs as what the City felt was a reasonable amount for it to pay. 

Over the past year, the City has been working to get clubs and other nightlife establishments to pay for a larger bar detail, but haven’t waited for that agreement to implement the more robust detail.  Based on incidents that happened in 2008 and last year, the City has been running a 10 officer, 1 supervisor detail most Th, F and Sa evenings.  We usually staff it with on-duty officers and back-fill officers on overtime to replace them responding to 911 calls (any officer can respond to an emergency call but when we have a walking beat we try to have the same on duty officers staff it).  The costs of this type of deployment is about $500,000 annually, which is not sustainable over the long haul given the City’s current budget constraints.

The detail over the next couple of weeks - well beyond the 10 officers and a supervisor we have seen over the last year or so - is much more costly and definitely unsustainable purely on tax dollars.

Businesses that impose a cost on the broader public are generally dealt with in one of three ways: 1) a use tax or fee of some kind is levied to cover the cost; 2) conditions are built into their license or permit to make them cover the costs (think pollution control measures on power plants or the cost of security to a nuclear power plant); or 3) they are banned.

It is worth noting that unlike most states, CT does not allow cities to levy use taxes.  Unlike most states, CT keeps the vast majority of the revenue from motor vehicle violations, infractions (despite the laudable efforts of Rep Dillon and others to get municipalities at least some of the revenue), and fines on establishments. Unlike most states, there is no real local authority to deny or constrain liquor permits. Unlike most states, CT’s “business improvement district” statutes do not allow a workable entertainment district to be set up (many, many states current do what the City is currently asking for state authorization to do).  And like all states, there is very little that New Haven can do short of eminent domain to remove or move a business that has legally established itself – we cannot zone them out of existence once they are here or make them relocate (but unlike some states, that “grandfathered” use is not so easy to extinguish and generally goes to new owners, even with an interruption of use in most cases).

We have a type of business in these clubs imposing a cost to the broader public.  The City does not have the legal authority to close them down, does not have the legal authority to impose a use tax or fee, and is not the authority that issues their permits and sets the conditions that are attached.  We can’t even recoup some of the cost through fines to the establishments or patrons since the revenue goes to the state, except for parking tickets.

None of that (or most of that) is not necessarily the fault of the state. Unlike states with larger cities, CT’s laws work fine for most municipalities and have worked fine for New Haven in this regard until recently. As with anything, the limitations imposed by the laws of CT aren’t a problem… until they are. There are plenty of good and reasonable people up at the capitol who will work with us on some of these laws, but that takes time and in the meantime, New Haven does not have many, many of the tools available to cities in other parts of the country.

None of the above changes what has to and will happen right now with public safety downtown.  Chief Limon will direct the PD to take the actions that are necessary – but the issues above are what myself and others will have to wade through to figure out how to pay for this on a sustainable basis.

- Rob Smuts
C of NH, CAO

posted by: to Townie on September 22, 2010  3:30pm

look up how many “isolated incidents” have happened downtown involving shootings and other major assaults in the past two months during bar closing times.. or even just look at assaults on police officers. also while your at it look up new haven’s “safe” crime rate compared to other cities….

posted by: FacChec on September 22, 2010  5:18pm

“We have a type of business in these clubs imposing a cost to the broader public.  The City does not have the legal authority to close them down, does not have the legal authority to impose a use tax or fee”.

Rob… I can’t feel sorry for your dilemma,
I do feel sorry for the rest of us for the following reasons:

While you do not have the sole authority to shut these clubs down, you do have other means to address these problem clubs.

Just two years ago the Mayor made direct public threats to the Taurus club on Winchester Ave; the Cardinals club on Henry St; and stage door johnnies near SCSU.
All were quelled of abhorrent rowdy behavior.

Now, you tell us the one way to stop the current behavior is to increase the police force downtown by the use of overtime… the same overtime you are now charged with reducing..!

You are making your dilemma the taxpayers nightmare by planning inconsistent uses throughout the downtown area.

You built 360 state St. requiring 300 or more parking spaces, Gateway Community College, in an area of Church, George and Crown St, which cannot accommodate the extra 1,000 cars, and now propose to link RT 34 with the downtown area with untold thousands of additional cars.

All this excess of cars will simply increase the need for more police to answer to increased auto accidents, emergency medical and fire emergencies; and traffic jams which will make times square, NY. seem like Broadway New Haven. Not to mention the increase to New haven residents auto insurance due to increased accidents on New Haven streets.

I’m afraid that all this ill conceived city planning, designed to make New Haven a Metropolis, will in your words….

.... “the issues above are what myself and others will have to wade through to figure out how to pay for this on a sustainable basis”.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 22, 2010  5:30pm

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 22, 2010 1:31pm
Why did the founding fathers pick the number three-fifths for the Three-Fifths Compromise? Both sides disagreed, so they were forced to compromise. They agreed that slaves would count as three-fifths of a person.
Now I understand you better!

And who said that we are not still in slavery.And we are all still count as 3/5ths of a human in this country.

posted by: Anon on September 22, 2010  5:59pm

Rob sounded pretty convincing until FacChek pointed out what the city did with Taurus, et all.

Yeah, so how about that, Rob? Are these clubs donating to someone’s campaign or something?

Because you are right, this is not sustainable. If everything you say is true, including zoning being a complete non starter (I find that hard to believe) then the only option is for all the business owners downtown who have had it with this to organize protests on Crown until the clubs figure out that its not our job to subsidize this insanity.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 22, 2010  9:03pm

Rob Smuts,

Under the mantra of ‘Public Safety’, the City of New Haven curtailed Alpha Delta Pizza’s hours after there was ONE shooting incident outside of the establishment.

So, if you are unable to shut businesses down, as you state,  you are implying that ADP was illegally targeted by the City.

posted by: Townie on September 23, 2010  8:55am

To: ‘to Townie’: New Haven is a lot safer than Hartford and Bridgeport, as well as Boston and NYC. It is probably one of the safest cities in Southern New England. But, that does not mean crime is non-existent, especially in areas with a high concentration of young people, most of whom have been drinking. Unfortunately crime is a reality in our society. The shootings downtown are isolated and random incidents. They are not part of an ongoing gang or drug war (i.e. Juarez, Mexico) and they are certainly not the norm. Most people that go downtown, to Crown Street and other places, are well behaved citizens, even the college students.
Certainly something should be done to prevent the random and isolated incidents of violence, but what the Mayor is proposing is an overreaction. Businesses do not need another tax to pay and it is not their responsibility to provide security for New Haven’s public areas (sidewalks, streets, etc.).
Violence in our society is a serious problem, but, unless containment of crime is the only desired outcome, it will take more than police action to mitigate the occurrence of violence. An collective effort is needed to identify the causes of violent crime and to eliminate or correct the societal deficiencies that created those causes. Until we are willing to undertake this effort then we will never achieve the security and peace we all hope for and expect.

posted by: DD on September 23, 2010  9:04am

Re-name Crown Street and to Bourbon Street.

Create city operated tolls surrounding downtown, charging cars & pedestrians between certain hours.

Seriously New Haven has to eat the costs to increase enforcement, zero tolerance. A handful of cops can’t do it all. There are teens in the NHPA garages and parking lot drinking before they go to clubs.

Allow NHPD supervision to determine based upon the crowds, etc the need for that night to hold over cops from 12 to 3 or as needed.

posted by: Doyens on September 23, 2010  9:34am

The concept of having special taxes for businesses that impose a broader cost on society does not apply here except in the most obscure way that fascinates those in politics and their enablers. Those trying to turn this into a revenue/tax issue are misguided.

This is simply about bad behavior, poor business practices, and owners of questionable repute all being allowed to do their own thing. It has to stop. They are like children without boundaries. The question is how to do that and damn fast. It doesn’t need to include the state legislature or more taxes.

1. Immediately flood the zone with heavy enforcement targeting the troubled clubs which the city is doing. But the number of police officers in the zone should be permanently increased to a level consistent with the need for command and control. With a huge budget, 457 cops, there are plenty of resources to allocate to this effort. That may mean changing shifts, having fewer day time officers, fewer police districts and shifting priorites or whatever, but the focus needs to be on how to get it done and how to be nimble and responsive to evolving problems.

2. Set up drunk driving check points - a lot of them and do it periodically, especially between 12 and 3a.

3. Ban on-street parking on Crown Street.

4. Post signs with agreement from parking lot owners/operators that by entering these premises you agree to allow car searches as deemed necessary by management or police.

5. Pass a city ordinance mandating that all zoning approvals for bars and clubs are subject to review every two years.

6. The owners of the clubs should be clearly told the city will do its best to shut them down unless they clean up their act. Poor business practices that encourage bad behavior will not be tolerated. $1 pitchers of beer and other similar promotions are bad ideas.

7. Get a feel good promotion going that advocates personal responsibility, respect for property and life. It may sound hokey, but nobody is talking about this. It’s time.


posted by: Fish Head on September 23, 2010  9:56am

What I want to know is why hasn’t the shooter been caught yet.

posted by: Millie on September 23, 2010  11:12am

I have lived in Manhattan and Cambridge - regardless of what stats can be cited the perception is both cities are safer than New Haven. If you do a poll in those cities, you will likely get the same answer. While NYC and Boston may have more crimes in total, something like the Sunday shootout never occurred within such a short walk from where I lived. Geographically, the bad crime areas are much farther away. So there is really no comparison.

The proximity to ‘random’ acts of violent crimes really affects the quality of life. You can’t say that this is normal for city living because I have lived in bigger cities and worked in others around the world.

There is really something screwed up about this city administration.

posted by: Anon on September 23, 2010  12:52pm

Sorry Townie, I’ve heard all this minimizing before. New Haven is the safest city in New England South of Meriden, east of Bridgeport and west of Branford. It is meaningless stuff to me. Worse than that, it is misleading.

Some believe it will help New Haven to be boosters gagging those who speak the obvious. I have in fact been threatened and intimidated by so called community leaders simply for saying there is a lot of crime.

You think that is normal? To be intimidated by someone for naively saying there’s a lot of crime? There is nothing normal about New Haven’s relationship with crime.

Has it gotten better since the 1990s? Yes, Wow, whoopee.

Are we better than Juarez? You have GOT to be kidding. BAGDAD is safer than Juarez. That Should make me proud of New Haven?

The apologists do nothing but create the cover Destefano can use to shirk duty and reality.

I do not choose to support standards that are low enough to downplay the impact of these kinds of incidents, including the extremely serious business impact. I find the rhetoric of it revolting.

Every neighborhood and family in this town should have zero tolerance for their kids dropping out of school and getting in trouble. There are zero excuses for this crap in the year 2010. Every kid in this town has an open highway to success, even in poverty.

They need to get off the road to jail and on the road to college.

The parents whining and resisting are third generation gang members, drug users, drug dealers, con artists, scammers and coddlers. They’ve been playing this card forever. They act like they have the right to tell me I can’t complain about crime. It’s a joke.

Their kids are out shooting each other. That’s the truth.

I am not going to hold my speech hostage to that.  This is America.

That goes for DeStefano too. No one should shut up for his sake either. 

The city is idiotic if it thinks we don’t know what this squemish compromise is with Crown Street. I think city hall better rethink its professed, unbelievably disingenuous, helplessness.  The gig is up for that mayor. He is out of credibility.

If NHPD just cleaned out its informant list, we would have no criminals left in this town.

posted by: Anon on September 23, 2010  1:04pm

Millie, don’t let them get you started. The boosters do this to get people arguing about stats and off the topic.

The stats say New Haven is not as safe, but they argue them endlessly. All it does is let the mayor slip out the back door. Believe me, been there. And no one knows the stats better than I do around here.

When you read a post that says New Haven is safer than Boston and NY, be suspicious. First it isn’t true, second, they don’t care that it isn’t true. You can quote the facts over and over and they still won’t care.

They aren’t being transparent about who they are, be suspicious of this. They post on NHI a lot and try to engage in this conversation every single time there is a story about the obvious crime problem in this city.

Chief Lewis was the only one who was allowed to say the crime problem was out of control in New Haven without getting pelted by tomatoes.

There is a reason for that. It is very bizarre.  Don’t fall for the bait. It is heavily agenda and machine politics driven.

posted by: Rob Smuts on September 23, 2010  7:44pm

I want to be clear that I am not downplaying the level of crime in New Haven.  It is unacceptably high.

It is true that crime declined significantly over the course of the 1990s through about 2002 - cut in half (a 55% decline to be exact).  It then leveled off and even increased slightly as we reduced the size of the police force starting in 2002.  By 12/31/07, the police force was 43 officers smaller than it was on 1/1/00.  In 2007, the Board authorized restoration of the positions that were eliminated before, and the force got back to its 2000 level last year.  Perhaps not coincidentally, last year saw a resumption of crime decreases - 10%, to our lowest level yet on record.

While crime in 2009 was at the lowest level recorded for New Haven, it was still massively higher than the national average.  From 1990 to 2009, crime declined nationally and although New Haven’s gains outpaced the nation’s, not by enough to significantly close the gap.

There are explanations for this.  New Haven is one of the poorest cities in the nation, due to factors such as how boundaries are drawn in CT compared to most states, the incredibly high portion of our housing that is reserved through government programs for the very poorest (Sec 8, project based public housing, deed-restricted), etc.  But explanations are not excuses, and crime is unacceptably high.  The underlying causal factors will be addressed through school reform and efforts at job creation, but the high crime rate must be dealt with directly by continuing to improve our policing efforts.

Total crime in New Haven isn’t what is discussed by this article, however.  Downtown is generally a very safe place – most of New Haven’s violence is concentrated in a few areas – which is one reason this incident is so jarring.  Policing efforts will continue to be mainly focused in the areas where most crime is concentrated, but this incident does merit a forceful response for several reasons including (but not limited to) the large number of shots exchanged, the thousands of by-standers in the immediate area and the brazenness of the shooter who fired on police officers.

On a couple questions posed my way above – Alpha Delta Pizza was asked by the district manager to curtail their hours for a little while and they voluntarily agreed, as a responsible business.  The City did not and cannot force them to do so.  Taurus was shut down by the State Liquor Commission after a prolonged and extensive effort that the City was involved in with several other partners.  You should assume that we are already at work on an effort to see if establishments downtown have similar violations that can be brought to the Commission.  Supporters of the Taurus made accusations that the City was unfairly targeting them compared to establishments downtown, and our response at the time was that we did not have establishments downtown fostering the same culture of violence as the Taurus.  Now that that is clearly no longer the case, the same effort will be made (an effort that was already started well before this past weekend).  Don’t expect it to be a short or easy process, however.

- Rob Smuts
C of NH, CAO

posted by: Blake Hawkesworth on September 23, 2010  8:20pm

Chief Lewis was one of the best.  It is a shame he did not stay.  The new guy is pretty bad example of a nationwide search. ...

To Mr. Rob Smuts your preposterous “Entertainment Tax” will not work.  Instead of trying to play part time police chief you should have hired someone with vision like a James Lewis. He would do the planning and tell you how it works.  Not a Chief Limon who has to have you explain how you think it should be done.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 23, 2010  11:11pm

CAO Smuts,

Thanks for the clarification. 

A similar action ‘curtailing hours’ was taken against ADP several years prior, which attempted to be codified by then Dwight Alderwoman Joyce Chen. From what I remember about trying to sneak a sandwich there late-night, it was not a mutually agreed upon situation. 

As I recall from the most recent shut down of ADP, part of the strategy was also a strong police presence in the area, coupled with aggressive enforcement of the parking laws, which included harassing innocent citizens with bogus tickets for vehicles parked legally. 

Check your charts and get back to me…...

posted by: Townie on September 24, 2010  10:31am

To Anon & Millie: I never said crime doesn’t exist in New Haven and I never compared New Haven to Juarez. I used Juarez as an example of a city beset by a wave of violence from one cause, a drug war. Something which is not happening here, but the P.D., Mayor’s office and some citizens, seem to think that it is. It’s not. There is a lot of crime in New Haven, but,most of the crime in this city happens outside of the downtown area. And I guess, according to Millie, that’s okay. As long as crime doesn’t occur close to her the situation is fine. This is the attitude that will never lead to a lasting reduction of crime. Focusing our attention and resources on areas of the city that draw the most press and that are frequented/inhabited by a certain demographic is not only wasteful but it is disingenuous and, in my opinion, elitist. Should only the poor have to deal with crime? It seems Mr. DeStefano and the Chief of Police think so. Taxing businesses for a problem that doesn’t really exist, to the degree that is claimed, is just an irresponsible knee-jerk reaction. It will only deter new business from coming to the Elm City.
I don’t want New Haven to be like New York or Boston, with specific “safe” areas and “dangerous” areas(usually such areas are delineated by income level). There is no reason why the entire city cannot enjoy a high level of security and protection. This should be the focus of the Mayor, the BOA, the Police Department and the citizens.

posted by: davec on September 24, 2010  1:54pm

Bill Saunders,
As the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said on SNL, “The point is moot.  I get the car.”
ADP is not long for this world since Rudy’s closed across the street.
Your essential point about the cynical hypocrisy of city hall leaning on some establishments, while not others is well taken, however.  Newt’s is dead, long live Newt’s!

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 24, 2010  6:44pm


Points taken and appreciated.
Kiss me again and I might turn into a prince…..