FBI: New Haven Conn.’s most violent

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Photo by Grace Patuwo.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its official audited crime data for 2010 on Monday, and Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. called the violent crime numbers for New Haven “painfully high.”

When the FBI released unaudited data for its annual Uniform Crime Report in May, New Haven had 1,978 violent crime incidents. Now, the final data shows that the number grew slightly to 1,992 after a routine audit — more incidents than any other city or town in Connecticut this year, but a 9 percent decrease for New Haven. Accoding to the FBI, the Elm City has the third-largest population in the state behind Hartford and Bridgeport. Hartford recorded only 1,624 violent crimes in 2010, the FBI reported; Bridgeport recorded 1,412.

When the first set of data was released in May, some news agencies calculated that New Haven was the “fourth most dangerous city” in the country based on official population statistics. Although City Hall Spokesman Adam Joseph told the News then that any simple ranking from the data is flawed, DeStefano admitted Monday that the report does not paint a good picture.

“These are painfully high numbers, particularly for families who experience crimes,” DeStefano told the News. “The [FBI data] is nothing to feel good about.”

The UCR data is a compilation of voluntarily submitted crime and staffing reports from law enforcement agencies across the country, according to Monday’s FBI press release. Overall, the nation saw a 6 percent decrease in violent crime since 2009. According to past UCR data, New Haven saw a 9 percent decrease in violent crime in 2010, down from 2,195 incidents the previous year.

DeStefano said Monday’s report shows that the community and City Hall should renew their commitment to dealing with the city’s crime problem. Crime has been a major talking point throughout the mayoral election, and one candidate, budget watchdog Jeffrey Kerekes — DeStefano’s only remaining opponent — has hosted press conferences and written several press releases attacking the mayor specifically for the Elm City’s violent crime.

Antoine Ward, a Davenport College dining hall employee and lifelong resident of the West Hills neighborhood, said Monday that he was not surprised that New Haven posted the highest violent crime numbers in Connecticut.

Ward said that he knew at least 15 of the 25 people killed in New Haven this year. The city’s most recent murder victim was found only two blocks from Ward’s home.

Ward said that, in his view, one of the biggest factors contributing to New Haven’s crime problem is the city’s re-entry population. When a New Haven resident returns to his or her old neighborhood after prison, Ward said, they often return to crime for lack of other options.

“When you get back from jail, you don’t get another chance at life: you can’t find a job, and that pushes you back into crime,” Ward said. “The city government should help that person get a job.”

DeStefano also cited reentry as the major focus of his administration against crime. City Hall runs the New Haven Prison Re-entry Initiative, which relies on two federal grants and private donations, as it does not receive any money from the city’s general funds. One of the initiative’s recent efforts seeks to create a dialogue between parole officers and New Haven Police Department district managers, according to Joseph.

But in addition to monitoring the reentry population, the initiative also works to help set up ex-prisoners with jobs, program director Amy Meek LAW ’09 said last week. The city also assumed some of the state government’s responsibilities by helping to fund housing for reentering residents, DeStefano said. All of these endeavors, he added, are intended to curb crime.

“Violent crime affects quality of life, and is a painful and large issue,” DeStefano said.

New Haven’s 25 murders this year represent the highest homicide tally for any year since 1994.

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