City crime creeps up, reversing trend

Crime in New Haven rose slightly in 2003, reversing a 10-year trend of dramatic decreases in city crime, according to the New Haven Police Department’s Uniform Crime Report.

New Haven crime statistics through November indicate uneven success in combating crime over the past year. An increase in robberies and a sharp rise in shootings in 2003 contributed to greater crime overall, but incidents of murder and rape both decreased.

Every police department in the country is required to give a Uniform Crime Report to the FBI. The report lists incidents of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

Overall, 8,309 incidents of crime were listed in the Uniform Crime Report from January to the end of November 2003. The number represents a 1 percent increase from 2002, when 8,199 incidents were reported.

Karen Dubois-Walton, the city’s chief administrative officer, who oversees the Police Department, said the small crime increase did not indicate that the city was becoming more dangerous.

“That kind of a blip [in crime rates] doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Dubois-Walton said. “Crime is significantly down. The city is much safer than it was 10 years ago.”

Dubois-Walton said eight murders were committed in New Haven in 2003. The number is one fewer than a year ago and significantly lower than the rate through most of the 1990s, when the number of murders regularly topped 20 a year.

The one area where crime rose significantly was shootings, Dubois-Walton said. However, she said the large rise in shootings early in the year was successfully combatted late in 2003 by New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz, who employed increased street patrols and more aggressive use of the street narcotics unit.

Through November, reports of aggravated assault in the city were down 1 percent. The category of aggravated assault includes most assaults that go beyond a simple fistfight and includes nonfatal shootings.

Rape was down about 25 percent with 15 fewer incidents reported than in 2002. Burglary and motor vehicle theft both showed small decreases through November compared with the same period last year.

Robbery was up about 5 percent in the city through November. University Police Chief James Perrotti said robberies have dropped dramatically in the last few years, but the decline seems to be leveling off. Following an armed robbery of two students on Old Campus Dec. 18, the latest of several armed robberies on campus this year, Perrotti and Yale administrators decided to reactivate undercover police officers to patrol campus, a strategy that had not been used in several years.

University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said crime on campus has remained steady in 2003, except for a dramatic increase in the theft of laptop computers from students’ rooms.

Dubois-Walton said the crime statistics were an encouraging sign that police were effectively preventing crime.

“It’s unrealistic to believe that in an urban center we will have no crime, but it is important that the numbers keep getting smaller and smaller,” Dubois-Walton said. “Until those numbers are zero, we’re not satisfied.”

Comments