Vehicle thefts decrease with new initiatives

City officials said there has been a sharp decline in motor vehicle crime over the past month, a trend they attributed to new measures introduced during the last few months.

Overall reported car thefts dropped by nearly 50 percent, from 141 to 71, according to a City Hall press release. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the New Haven Police Department’s new Information Directed-Neighborhood Enforcement Team program, which was designed to reduce motor vehicle thefts, recovered 36 cars and made 21 arrests last month and is largely responsible for the drop in motor vehicle-related crime.

“With more manpower, we are making dramatic inroads into auto theft recoveries and arrests,” DeStefano said. “I am very encouraged by the activity of these teams to date.”

Car thefts currently represent 11 percent of crime in the city, down from 17 percent last year.

NHPD spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said the ID-NET program, which began on Feb. 26, uses statistical analysis of crimes and a computer-assisted dispatch to determine the deployment of teams of officers based on crime trends in the recent past. She said the program, which currently involves 27 NHPD officers, two sergeants and one lieutenant, has made the deployment of officers more efficient.

“Using the crime analysis information, officers know what types of crimes are taking place and in what areas, so they know what to look for when they’re on the streets,” Winchester said.

ID-NET is part of a decade-old statewide initiative and was first active in New Haven in the Fair Haven area, she said. The teams, eight groups with two officers each, are deployed every night and have more recently worked in the Dwight/Kensington and Newhallville neighborhoods. Between March 23 and April 4 in Newhallville, officers issued 34 arrest warrants and made 50 onsite criminal arrests.

City and state officials have introduced other programs in addition to ID-NET in order to fight motor vehicle crime, such as requiring that car owners place registration stickers inside their front windows rather than on license plates. This plan, initially proposed by DeStefano and NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz in January, was instituted to reduce the theft of registration stickers from motor vehicles.

When he presented his State of the City address to the Board of Aldermen on Feb. 6, DeStefano said improving public safety is one of his three major priorities this year. The budget proposal submitted by the mayor this year included an increase in property tax partially in order to hire 24 new NHPD officers. DeStefano said that while the rise in property tax might hinder some first-time homebuyers, the improvements to public safety will benefit all.

Yale Police Department Lt. Michael Patten said he could not comment on the decrease, since overall city crime and motor vehicle thefts are not significant parts of the YPD’s work, he said.

“Motor vehicle theft is not an issue at Yale,” he said.

ID-NET teams are currently working in the Hill North and South districts.

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