Violent crime down, gun violence up in ’07

Violent crimes in New Haven decreased by 10 percent in 2007, but gun violence continued to increase last year despite the city’s repeated attempts to get firearms off the street, according to the New Haven Police Department’s annual report on public safety.

The report, which was issued on Dec. 31 at a press conference held by NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz and Mayor John DeStefano Jr., shows a 46 percent decline in homicides, but also details a 37 percent increase in non-fatal shootings. Though Part I crimes — murder, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor-vehicle theft — hit a 20-year low, former offenders committed repeat offenses at an increased rate. Ninety-four percent of the victims of homicide and non-fatal shootings were people of color.

Most of the suspects in last year’s homicides and non-fatal shootings were either convicted felons or individuals that were on probation on parole. Sixty-nine percent of homicide victims had a criminal history.

At the press conference, DeStefano attributed the rise in repeat offenses to a state re-entry program that puts 25 former felons on the streets of New Haven every week.

“I think they understand it that when an ex-felon is dropped off, before that happens people should address where he’s going to live; if he’s slotted into a substance abuse program if needed; and are there sufficient parole or probation officers to monitor him?” DeStefano said at the press conference according to the New Haven Independent. “We’re lobbying our state delegation hard so that something important happens in this area.”

The report also notes that “communities of color” were especially affected by homicides and gun violence last year.

Of the 25 suspects identified in relation to homicides and non-fatal shootings in 2007, 23 were black males and two were Hispanic males. There were 13 homicides in New Haven last year; nine of the victims were black males, and three were Hispanic males. Of the 162 non-fatal shooting victims, 129 were black males and 24 were Hispanic males. The number of black and Hispanic victims, relative to the total number of victims, has stayed constant over the past three years.

The number of guns taken off the streets last year fell to 328, compared to 358 in 2006. Of those, 76 firearms were seized through the city’s second annual gun buy-back program, in which residents could exchange their guns for $100 Wal-Mart gift certificates — no questions asked.

A separately issued NHPD breakdown of 2007 crime by district showed reductions in firearm discharge, auto theft and a 50-percent decrease in aggravated assault in the downtown area. Yet at the same time, the document also shows a 12.2 and 15 percent increase in downtown robberies and burglaries, respectively.

There were 8,563 incidents of Part I crimes in 2007, down from to 9,167 in 2006. Part I crimes are either classified as violent — murder, rape and aggravated assault — or non-violent — burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

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