City Hall memo: Aldermen hope to increase safety in wake of murder

With the media frenzy over the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13, some aldermen are calling for long-term changes in city safety.

Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah said yesterday that he and Ward 21 Alderwoman Katrina Jones plan to introduce a piece of legislation to the board in response to Le’s death that will address the problems of crime and public safety that contributed to her tragedy and that continue to the plague the city. Given that news of Le’s murder, which is still under investigation, has reached national prominence, Shah said it is the perfect time to take a hard look at the reasons underlying New Haven’s crime rates.

“There needs to be more communication, not about what Yale can do to beef up security, and not about what police can do to beef up security, but what we can all do collectively to make sure these kinds of things don’t continue to happen in New Haven, period,” Shah said.

For Ward 6 Alderwoman Dolores Colon, tension due to the recent murder, which fell within her ward, should catalyze a common deduction: Crime in New Haven deserves more attention.

“Yes, the killing of Annie Le occurred in my ward. And you know what? Around the corner, a person was mugged last week, and two different men were shot and killed around here before that,” Colon said. “Why do we have media just because it’s a Yale student killed? Where was the media frenzy in all those other situations?” Colon added that she was not trying to be callous, and wished the best to Le’s family.

But other city officials, including Ward 13 Alderman and Public Safety Committee chairman Alex Rhodeen, contended that because Le’s murder occurred on private, not public, property, there is not much that can be achieved via the Board of Aldermen.

“I’m just not sure what kind of legislation on the local level would have an impact on this particular case, or cases like these,” Rhodeen said, though he said he would be happy to read any upcoming resolutions regarding public safety.

Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark agreed, saying that though she understands the impulse to portray Le’s murder within the greater context of public safety in the city, it is important to remember that there is a significant difference between crimes that occur on the streets of New Haven and a seemingly one-off homicide in a Yale lab. The causes of those two types of crime are starkly different, she said.

Clark said she suspected Shah’s proposed legislation might actually backfire if it brings more negative attention to the city or furthers the conception that New Haven is significantly more dangerous than other cities.

But the major challenge to drafting an aldermanic resolution in response to Le’s death, Shah said, is that he does not know exactly what that legislative proposal should include. And that is where Yale students and administrators need to step in and explain to the Board of Aldermen what needs to happen on the level of municipal government to ensure that nothing like Le’s murder ever happens again.

“None of us [on the Board of Aldermen] really knew her, but we do know the culture in this city around crime and subversive activity,” Shah said.

Shah said he hopes the flurry of press surrounding Le’s murder will bring more funding to the New Haven Police Department, enabling the organization to train and employ more officers and maintain a higher police presence in the city. Additionally, Shah said he also believes now is the right time to call for “a consistent federal presence” in New Haven; the city needs outside help to ascertain why there is more violent crime in New Haven than in other cities of comparable size.

When asked if she thought Le’s death would incite increased financial support to the NHPD, Colon said she was less optimistic. She predicted that the only funding increase from the state government to public safety in New Haven will go toward forensics in an effort to solve cold cases reminiscent of Annie Le’s murder, such as the killing of Suzanne Jovin ’99.

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