Although slightly fewer people were non-fatally shot in New Haven in 2008 than in 2007, the number of homicides in the city increased by 69 percent, according to figures released by the New Haven Police Department.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and New Haven Police Department Chief James Lewis said there were 22 murders in the city last year, up from 13 in 2007. But alongside the uptick in homicides, the Elm City also saw a continued increase in burglaries and larcenies in 2008.
Despite the increased number of homicides, Lewis said the real number of importance was the total number of shooting victims, both fatal and non-fatal, the New Haven Independent reported. That number decreased slightly, to 155 in 2008 from 162 in 2007.
Lewis said “bad luck” is often the difference between a non-fatal shooting and a homicide, according to the Independent.
Convicted felons represented a majority of victims and suspects in homicides. In 2008, 73 percent of the homicide victims were convicted felons. In 2007 that number was 54 percent.
The NHPD has recently put an increased emphasis on getting guns off of New Haven streets. Twenty of the 22 murder victims were killed by guns. From January to June 2008, the number of firearms arrests was down 15 percent compared to the same period in 2007. But since Lewis took over as chief in July, the number of firearm arrests increased 68 percent compared to the last six months of 2007.
The total number of non-violent crimes — which includes burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — increased by 8 percent. Burglaries and larcenies increased by 9 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Much of the increase in burglaries stemmed from an increase in thefts of items from cars, such as GPS units, and thefts of metals like copper, which is then sold to scrap metal yards for a quick profit.
Motor-vehicle theft, however, decreased by 9 percent, to 1,163 from 1,276.
The number of reported rapes and robberies did not significantly change from 2007. The total number of violent crimes decreased 4 percent from 2007, mostly due to the 7 percent drop in aggravated assaults.
Although the number of shootings in Hartford, which has a population slightly larger than New Haven, increased to 201 in 2008 from 159 in 2007, the number of murders remained steady at about 30, according to figured released last week by the Hartford Police Department. Hartford saw a 9.6 percent decrease in serious crime last year.
Despite the economic downturn, the overall crime rate, including the number of robberies, fell in New York and Los Angeles as well.
In 2009, Lewis said the NHPD plans to continue to focus on reducing quality-of-life crimes. This includes continuing the prostitution stings that the NHPD has been conducting since August.
The NHPD has not done a prostitution sting yet this year.
Lewis said he also plans to continue the department’s focus on traffic violations and narcotics. In 2008, the number of traffic citations issued increased 48 percent. The number of people arrested for narcotics violations in 2008 also increased slightly.