Despite a spike in robberies, assaults and other crimes involving firearms, the overall crime rate in New Haven remained fairly constant during 2005 with a total of 9,726 reported cases, according to the annual crime statistics report recently released by the New Haven Police Department.
The report, delivered in a joint press conference held by Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr., showed an increase in the number of rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and car thefts reported in the Elm City, but a decrease in the number of burglaries and larcenies. The number of reported murders remained exactly the same, as of the Dec. 30 report figures.
During the press conference, DeStefano said the increase in gun-related crime may be due to the release of prisoners from Connecticut jails into New Haven. These prisoners, he said, often become involved in crime again because they do not get the government support they need to make the transition from prison life to community life.
There were 838 robberies committed in New Haven last year — 100 more than in the previous year, the report said. The number of reported aggravated assaults rose from 925 to 968.
There are 4,482 former inmates on the streets, up from 4,369 in March 2004, Connecticut Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacy Smith said. The number of ex-convicts currently released, she said, is approximately 20 percent of the total number of people incarcerated during 2005.
But Smith said she cautions against characterizing the increase in prisoners as an unusual trend.
“There is not an influx of inmates being released,” she said. “Offenders are returning home to their communities after they have satisfied their prison sentences as ordered by the court.”
DeStefano, who is running in this year’s gubernatorial election, called on sitting Gov. M. Jodi Rell to provide more funding for prisoners making the transition back into community life. Increased assistance, he said, will help offenders maintain productive lives.
“These offenders coming back into the community have a responsibility to act in a civil and responsible fashion,” DeStefano said. “At the same time, the state has an obligation to address some basic needs around employment, housing and substance abuse for these individuals.”
Smith said Connecticut provides extensive assistance to offenders to help reintroduce them into communities. She said the state Department of Corrections has recently hired 58 more caseworkers to manage paroles. In addition, the DOC has doubled the capacity of halfway houses, even creating a Community Transition Plan to promote successful reintegration, she said.
The Plan involves helping inmates find housing in residential areas so they can become involved in communities. As part of the program, Smith said the DOC funds several residential communities where inmates can be supervised from halfway houses.
Still, many New Haven politicians are saying that more help is needed. New Haven Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield said he would welcome any funding the state could provide for newly released prisoners.
“It would be great to have more resources for people who have been incarcerated to come back and live productive lives,” he said. “Whether it’s with drugs or job training, or even if it’s as basic as making sure they have transportation to get to and from work, we need to be able to assist them in becoming productive members of society.”
Smith said the DOC is launching an Offender Accountability Plan for each newly sentenced inmate beginning this month. The plan will allow inmates to develop individual goals for the duration of their sentence. Smith said case workers and inmates will work together to develop behavioral expectations from inmates both during and after incarceration, which will then be enforced by DOC officials. The OAP, Smith said, is just one aspect in the DOC’s overall management of released inmates.