Crime in New Haven increased seven percent in 2004 according to city police records, while a University Police report released Friday showed a 14 percent percent fall in campus crime.
The 2004 crime statistics released by the New Haven Police Department Dec. 29 show an increase in city crime from 9,010 cases reported in 2003 to 9,652 last year, while the 2004 on-campus crime statistics show the number of crimes committed on campus fell from 423 in 2003 to 363 last year.
Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez warned against reading too much into this year’s numbers, given the city’s general trend of decreasing crime rates. Crime rates in the city had fallen consecutively for 10 years before experiencing a slight increase in 2003.
“They are disappointing, but just like any other statistic, it is an indication of one particular time,” Perez said.
To remedy New Haven crime increases, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he will focus on addressing incidents of larceny and murder, both of which increased in the city in 2004. The city statistics show murders nearly doubled, from eight in 2003 to 15 in 2004.
Most of these cases are unrelated and not attributable to a single individual, New Haven Police spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said in an e-mail.
“With the exception of the two homeless people who were murdered in an abandoned building on Grand Avenue, I don’t believe that any of the murders are related,” she said.
While larcenies experienced a spike citywide, University Police Lt. Michael Patten said thefts on campus fell by about 19 percent — more than any other crime. Patten said the change could be attributed to greater theft awareness among University contractors.
“A lot of the thefts happen in construction sites, so we were able to work with the contractors to make them aware of the risks and increase security,” Patten said.
In order to address the higher murder rate, DeStefano said prison releases should be handled differently. He said convicts will be deterred from committing crimes if they are better able to find employment after they get out of jail. He also suggested that police officers meet with prisoners upon their release.
“When people come back out into the community, we should have police meet them and have them frankly explain that they’re there and have them aware that we’re watching,” DeStefano said.
Regarding larceny in New Haven, DeStefano said the increase was driven by the theft of license plates, due to the expense of purchasing insurance and registering cars. To discourage such crimes, the mayor said he will ask the state legislature to have registration stickers placed in rear windshields rather than on plates — a change he said has been successfully implemented in New York.
Perez said one way to combat the increase in crime would be to increase the size of the police force. He said over the past couple of years, 20 police positions in New Haven have been eliminated due to budget constraints.
Both DeStefano and Perez said cuts in federal and state aid to the city have inhibited the expansion of the police force in recent years. But Perez said economic development opportunities, like the new IKEA store, can offset this problem by bringing in tax dollars.