Yale workers return home to city’s violence

New Haven’s murder rate this year is the highest since 1994, but the vast majority of the homicides have plagued streets and neighborhoods that most Yalies have never heard of, let alone visited.

But the violence can hit home for another part of the University community.

Antoine Ward is a Davenport College dining hall employee who has lived his whole life in the West Hills area of the city. He calls it the “Wild Wild West.”

“When I was a kid, I used to cry when someone I knew was killed, but it’s normal now,”he said, sitting in the Davenport dining hall, just after his dinner shift ended.

Ward said that he personally knew at least 15 of the 25 people killed in New Haven this year. The city’s most recent murder victim, 25-year- old Timothy Mathis, was found only two blocks from Ward’s home on Taylor Avenue.

In his experience living in West Hills, Ward said he has observed that feelings of revenge incite the majority of killings between young people: jealousy over anything from a stolen girlfriend to a new job could be reason enough to kill.

“[Some New Haven residents] get into a state of mind that we’re in the jungle,” Ward said. “you’re ready to die at any minute, so you’re also ready to take anyone’s life too.”

Another Yale dining employee shared a similar outlook. This employee, who wished to remain anonymous citing employment concerns, told the News that a family member was recently shot and killed, but that “you get used to it.”

The crime that some Yale employees are experiencing near their homes may not have leaked onto campus, but it has exploded onto the city’s political scene as one of the major election issues.

At a joint press conference for three mayoral candidates Wednesday afternoon, Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s three challengers continued their sharp of the mayor’s handling of the crime situation.

Budget watchdog Jeffrey Kerekes, civil rights activist Clifton Graves and former aldermen Tony Dawson gathered press and supporters on the New Haven Green and called for both DeStefano and New Haven Police Department Chief Frank Limon to be replaced. Kerekes, who lives in the city’s Wooster Square neighborhood, told the News Wedndesday night that he feels safe near his house despite a dead body being discovered three blocks away last week, but added that he understands many communities do not have the luxury of safety.

Ward blamed the city’s education system, among other factors, for the violence. Kerekes agreed, adding that only 51 percent of children graduate high school in the Elm City, and that he believes DeStefano is to blame for the state of the education system.

“We’ve got a generation of kids who have been failed by this mayor,” Kerekes said.

But while his opponents attacked his record, DeStefano defended his handling of New Haven crime.

In 1994 — the last time New Haven had more than 25 murders — the city saw 16,000 Part 1 (serious) crimes, he said, and that number dropped to 9,200 last year. The mayor added that he expects the Part 1 figure to decrease again in 2011.

“Anyone who wants to use crime statistics to talk about the chief or my leadership needs to acknowledge that,” DeStefano said of the overall decrease in crime, adding that many of the murders are taking place between individuals with prior convictions.

DeStefano added that the police department has made approximately 20 arrests in connection with the city’s homicides, but NHPD Spokesman Joseph Avery did not return requests to verify this number.

DeStefano has cited this reason before when explaining New Haven crime, and told the News that the city has “had to deal with a state administration that denied they were discharging people back unprepared until they were caught on film doing it.” His administration’s Prison Reentry Initiative relies on two federal grants and private donations, as it does not receive money from the city’s general funds. This summer, the Initiative started a new program, sending one city official and a number of rotating volunteers into the New Haven Correctional Center to conduct reach-in efforts.

DeStefano and the NHPD estimate that approximately 25 felons are released back into the city every week.

Correction: September 14, 2011

An earlier version of this article neglected to mention the Prison Reentry Initiative’s new reach-in program that was started this summer at the New Haven Correctional Center.


  • newhaven

    I appreciate the YDN trying to highlight these issues, but let’s consider the facts. Most workers go home to neighborhoods that are extremely safe, and have not seen a single homicide for many years. This is an issue that is localized to a few high-poverty areas that, relative to most other US cities, are quite small in both area and population.

    I don’t see the Columbia University paper doing an article about their employees’ neighborhoods, even though New York City reported 45 shootings just over the past weekend alone.

    Yale workers come from the entire New Haven labor market area, which is one of the safest urban areas in the country. New Orleans, for example, which has a population and land area that is almost exactly identical to that of the New Haven labor market (ie about 350,000 people within a couple mile radius of the center), had nearly 200 homicides last year, giving it a homicide rate almost 10 times higher than New Haven.

    It is sure that some workers and students are impacted by this issue, but your suggestion that most workers live in areas that are less safe than where students or faculty live is simply unfounded.

    • SCSU_Student

      Actually, the FBI put out a list of the most violent cities in the US in 2010, and New Haven is #4 (mind you that’s violence, not murder rate)


      There you see it reported by NBC CT.


      There is the link to the original FBI report.

      Where are your facts again?

      Also, while the greater new haven area may not be as horribly and utterly violent as it could be, the CITY OF NEW HAVEN (just that 125,000 people, less than 1/2 the population of NO), barring surrounding areas, is that violent. I live in fair haven and drive through newhallville to get to school every day and I can hear shots almost every night from my home. So please don’t tell me that New Haven is among the safest places in the country. You MUST be one of the Yalies that never leaves the campus, or perhaps you are faculty that then goes home to a house in Westport or Greenwich.

      Also — those high poverty areas are where your labor force lives. No one is talking about your quarter-million-dollar-a-year professors. Did you even read the article?

      • newhaven

        Contrary to some of the TV reports, that was not an “FBI ranking” and it is not even remotely accurate as a ranking. Here is a message from the Police Chief regarding this issue, who has lived here his entire life: https://eds.yale.edu/messages/security/detail.asp?msg=68080
        See below for more explanation. I’m sorry to hear that, like too many residents, you personally live in an area that you perceive to be unsafe. One unsafe block is one too many.

  • Noteworthy

    So I guess DeStefano is saying the murders are less important than say assaults, burglaries and rape. And there he goes again, blaming the state for prisoner re-entry happening in New Haven. Guess where all those ex-cons came from before they went in the first time? Yes. New Haven. When they get out, where do they want to come back to? New Haven.

    DeStefano is great at blaming people. The problem is he’s spent nearly 20 years at the helm of Homicide Haven and he’s running out of people to blame. He should look in the mirror and admit that 6 police chiefs in 18 years is too much turnover. Morale is bad. And he’s the problem. He should take some responsibility.

    DeStefano’s real problem is there is no easy, quit fix to murders, drop out factories or the lack of good employment for New Haveners. When Yale held its job fair for part time, no benefit school year employment, thousands of people poured on to campus desperate for work. DeStefano likes headlines about the Promise for education; likes the headlines about education reform; likes the headlines about his top 10 criminal list – he just doesn’t like the hard work associated with any of it. This is fundamentally why this city is nearly bankrupt financially and is currently running a deficit like it did last year and why the drop out factories continue and why we have murders in the street nearly every other week. It’s time for a change.

  • joey00

    New Orleans homicide rate was 52 per 100,000.The city of New Haven has just a tad over 100,000 people in it , meaning we are going to pass the capital of murder in the US – New Orleans.
    Nobody includes the surrounding towns into any equation , they want to be kept seperate and far away. ( New Haven Labor Market ? ridiculous)

    • jnewsham

      So you’re predicting that we’ll have more than two times the murder rate we had over the last eight months in the next four? Reasonable.

  • newhaven

    Joey00, municipal boundaries are irrelevant. New Orleans includes large areas that would be considered other towns if they were in Connecticut. Bottom line is, within 3 miles of the center of NH, there are 350,000 people. Within 3 miles of the center of NO, there are 350,000 people. The two have an identical number of people in an area of the exact same size. Within this area, the murder rate in 2009 was 51 per 100,000 people in New Orleans and only 5 per 100,000 in New Haven. It isn’t worth getting into details here, but every criminologist knows that if you want to compare risks, you can compare area with identical populations, sizes, densities, etc. Comparing a few blocks of one city to hundreds of square miles of another is just plain absurd.

    • SCSU_Student

      are you then including the murders in west haven, east haven, north haven, hamden, etc. when you are making your statements? b/c as i remember it some of those towns saw murders in 2010.

      • newhaven

        Yes. BTW, those areas of our city are similar to Fair Haven Heights, East Rock, Westville, East Shore, Yale, etc., in that they typically average fewer than one murder per year.

  • AmyMeek

    I run the City of New Haven’s Reentry Initiative, and I’m also a recent graduate of Yale Law (class of 2009). Part of my interest in reentry issues in New Haven was formed while I was a student at YLS, through my involvement in clinics that gave me the opportunity to work directly with New Haven residents at organizations like New Haven Legal Assistance. As a result, I put a little extra energy into engaging Yale students around issues in New Haven — for example, just three weeks ago I spoke to Yale undergrads on one of the FOCUS panels on criminal justice and reentry issues.

    So I’m doubly disappointed to see the YDN print the patently false assertion that “[Mayor Destefano’s] administration has not announced any recent progress or new initiatives to address its reentry problem.” If the writer and/or editor of the article had even done a quick Google search or looked through the YDN archives from this year, they would find a number of updates on the progress of the Reentry Initiative.

    For example, if you Google “new haven reentry” you’ll find — on the very first page of results — that the fourth search result actually links to a Yale Daily News Magazine article from February 2011 (http://www.yaledailynews.com/videos/2011/jan/30/485/) that profiles my work with formerly incarcerated New Haven residents (the result of several conversations and interviews with a Yale undergrad who approached me about writing on reentry — nearly every person profiled in the piece was someone whom I directed her to).

    If you’re looking for even more recent “announcements” about the progress of the Initiative, an Associated Press article profiling our work ran last month (http://nhregister.com/articles/2011/08/08/news/doc4e3ec602ab19e840260940.txt) in several Connecticut newspapers (including the front page of the New Haven Register, as well as the Hartford Courant). The article includes a description of a totally new program that we started this summer, where we conduct reach-in efforts with volunteers into the New Haven Correctional Center.

    I love talking about my work, and I think we’re doing unbelievably exciting work at the Reentry Initiative, so I am disappointed that nobody from YDN bothered to contact me to check their assertion that we’re not making any progress.

    Amy P. Meek, Yale Law School Class of 2009

  • SpacePotato

    blame bush

  • joey00

    Comparing the city of New Orleans to the city of New Haven is comparing apples to oranges.
    But so alike in the murder rate. – Redrawing city’s boundaries? To play some sort of very Grimm Fairy Tale ,To convince us what ? New Haven’s not so bad ? Selling points with bars/graphs and compasses. To impress who ?

  • connman250

    As long as you have a one party system in New Haven, nothing is going to change. One factor that nobody will talk about is the fact that these neighborhoods are predomenently black. Bill Cosby, for years, has been chastising the black community for the gang and rap culture, but nobody will listen because they deem it as a conservative viewpoint. If you talk to people quietly, they will say that as long as murders don’t happen in their neighborhoods, they have no real concern. God forbid if a Yale student gets caught in a shooting cross fire, what will DeStefano say then? The pop and the material culture in this country and lack of discipline in the home and school are the main factors of crime. These crime infested neighborhoods should be treated like the battle zones that they are. Martial law should be imposed to stop suspicious cars for guns and drugs no matter what the ethnic origins are of the occupants.

  • connman250

    The justice system in this state is a joke. The liberals in the house and senate state want to eliminate the death penalty. Why? We should not be dumping career criminals back onto our streets. The law profession is the main reason that criminals are put back onto the streets. There is a bundle of money to be made by lawyers who represent these dregs of society.

  • joey00

    Please return home WITH your violence. Enough already with the true to the game colors on campus.Enough with the “i’m a mobster ” dribble on campus.As a matter of fact we don’t care where you go with your insane personalities selfs – just take it someplace else,and well pay you – as a matter of fact there’s a guy and girl we don’t like across town

  • connman250

    How much does the state spend on lawyers to represent the killers and other felons in this state? Every citizen of this state should know how much we pay in taxes for lawyers to plea bargin for these felons. Will any reporter for the Register do a story on this, or or will it hurt their advertisment business?