Just before 8 p.m. Saturday, 19-year-old Tywan Q. Turner dashed into the Dixwell Mini Market, only a few blocks northwest of campus. He tried to evade his armed pursuer, but the assailant caught up with Turner and shot him dead.
So ended a bloody four days in New Haven, marred by a three-murder crime spree that has left the city reeling from sustained gun violence, which Mayor John DeStefano Jr., in a phone interview Sunday, called “a matter of great, great concern.” Black community leaders, whose members have been hit hardest by the violence, went so far as to ask in a rally at the mini market Sunday for state troopers to help city police patrol the streets.
“Five murders in eight days are tragic, they’re awful and they’re really unconscionable acts of violence,” the mayor said, adding that he would prefer that state authorities speed up forensic analysis and prosecution of gun violence instead of patrolling New Haven streets.
The three recent murders were the ninth, 10th and 11th for the city — two away from matching last year’s total. The crime rate for 2009 was the lowest on record.
But as alarm spreads through much of the city, Yale students are seemingly unaware of the murders, several of which have occurred in the Dwight neighborhood, which is just blocks from Pierson College, in an area where many students live off campus. While most of the nine students interviewed who live or plan to live off campus said Sunday that the violence does not affect their lives, several also said they will take more precautions to protect themselves.
All three murders happened inside what newly sworn-in New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon calls the city’s “crime corridor,” which runs down from the Newhallville and Dixwell neighborhoods, through Dwight and down to the Hill. The murders also occurred despite Limon’s new police campaign, “Operation Corridor,” which launched over the weekend weekend and flooded the area with additional police officers to target drug and gang “hot spots.” DeStefano said the police must now spend more time and resources to solve the homicides as well as continue to “examine and modify” policing strategies.
The same day Turner was murdered, New Haven police responded to multiple gunshots fired around 4:15 a.m. in the Dixwell neighborhood and found New Haven resident Kenneth Thomas, 29, gunned down at 43 Charles St. Thomas died in an area hospital later in the day. On Thursday, police discovered a male murder victim wrapped in plastic inside a trash can in the Newhallville neighborhood. Police have yet to release the victim’s name, waiting until they notify out-of-state family members.
Since October 2009, 16 men have been shot to death in New Haven, many in their late 20s or 30s and recently released from prison, and police have not solved any of the murders. Since the start of this year, community leaders have largely blamed the problem on the fighting between ex-felons and current drug dealers and gang members to reclaim old turf. Still, DeStefano said Sunday that he does not believe most of the murders are the result of gang violence.
In January, then-New Haven Police Chief James Lewis launched a massive raid in Dixwell and Newhallville to serve all available arrest warrants and gather intelligence about the murders. No murder suspects were arrested, but the violence did quiet down until last month.
Many of the nine students said they were not aware of the recent spate of nearby murders, and all of them said they believe crime is normal in Yale’s off-campus neighborhoods.
“For me, it’s nothing to worry about,” Zachary Mulvihill ’11 said. “It’s part of life in New Haven.”
Two students said they have started to use more Yale services, such as the shuttle and minibus. Carolyn Brotherton ’10, who lives on Dwight Street, added that after two years, she regrets living off campus because she is tired of constantly dealing with safety issues.
But Ric Hernandez ’11 said that although he is now more cautious when he is out late at night, he plans to live in the same house next year because he believes the benefits of living off campus outweigh the concerns of crime.