Weak economy spurs city murders

Kashon Douglas’ murder in East Rock on Friday brought the city’s murder count to 29, making this the deadliest year New Haven has seen since 1994.

Much of New Haven’s crime is associated with illegal drug dealing and people making “negative life choices,” City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph said Monday afternoon. City officials cited persistently high unemployment and the number of citizens re-entering the community after incarceration as other factors impacting the city’s rising murder rate.

“A lot of our crime is generated around a nexus of narcotics and the re-entry population, folks recently released from incarceration and doing activities that are detrimental to themselves,” Joseph said.

To combat this trend, the city launched the Prison Re-entry Initiative in 2008, which provides resources and support to formerly incarcerated residents in an effort to reintegrate them into the city, as well as programs through which New Haven works with state parole and probation officials to identify individuals with a high risk of recidivism.

The other prong of the city’s strategy to combat violent crime is working to build a more positive relationship with the community, New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman and Joseph said. By patrolling on the streets more and forging closer ties with citizens, the New Haven Police Department can build trust with and more readily obtain information from the community, Hartman added.

This strategy, part of the Elm City’s broader community policing effort, will be bolstered by the arrival of Dean Esserman next month as the new NHPD chief, Joseph said. As NHPD asssistant chief from 1991-’93, Esserman was one of the “founding fathers” of community policing, Joseph added, and he later brought the same on-the-ground tactics to Stamford, Conn. and Providence, R.I., where he served as chief of the cities’ police departments.

City officials also cited the drug business as a factor in the city’s high murder rate. Two ex-drug dealers said that in the absence of brighter prospects, the drug trade is a draw for many former prisoners upon their return to the New Haven.

“When your back’s against the wall and you have kids to feed, you resort to what you know,” said Travis “T-MIZ” Pittman, who was a drug dealer before he became involved in the music industry. “A lot of young brothers come home from jail and try to do what’s right, and they look for a job but they really don’t have [any] help and they can’t find a job.”

Hugh “HG” Gallman said the economy’s recent slump has exacerbated a lack of inner-city job opportunities, particularly affecting young people. He added that some of those without jobs let the “street life” get to them, turning to the narcotics industry, a realm in which “senseless murders” sometimes occur even when money is not involved.

Gallman said the city should do more to create job opportunities for young people if City Hall wants to crack down on crime.

“They have to provide more jobs — provide an opportunity — because without an opportunity then it becomes violence, then it becomes robberies, then it becomes shootings,” he said. But, Pittman said, just creating jobs is not enough.

He explained that people need to want to live and work legitimately to get out of the narcotics business. Once they are discouraged, the situation is like a “revolving door,” he added, in that former criminals return to crime after their stints in jail.

Pittman and Gallman both said they worked their way up from being “soldiers” to being their own bosses in New Haven narcotics circles. Gallman said he knew “at least 20” of the 29 people murdered this past year.

Though the murder rate is the city’s highest in 17 years, the overall crime rate is down 9 percent from last year.

Alan Sage contributed reporting.


  • Boogs

    Yes. Indeed. Murder is “a negative life choice”. Priceless. My thoughts on the matter are that James Frano’s presence started driving everyone stark raving mad.

  • anonymouz

    It would be interesting to make a graph between the weak economy and the murders. . .

  • mlr

    I don’t know what is more surprising, the startling statistics about the murders or the fact that the reporter found himself two ex-drug dealers willing to talk to him. Well done, Mr. Lu.

  • onlineproductmanager

    ^^^ or rather, Alan Sage

  • MikeC

    The last time there were this many murders was 1994, when the economy was growing by leaps and bounds.

  • tmiz


  • The Anti-Yale

    YDN is venturing into the real New Haven. Good reporting.

  • StephanieParker

    Our young African American kids are suffering….we as the people must take a stand,and do it harmony…this struggle that they may be encountering,has to come to recignition.That they are reaching out to something,that listens,and that unfortunately are guns.Something is going on with these kids,internally… and its time that we show concern,and get to the core,of why so much anger?The innerchild is awaiting to be heard….they just dont know how to tap in that soruce of finding the problem,maybe theyre afraid…….and again they have someone that listens,and that unfortunately is violence.

  • slatest

    @MikeC: Overall the economy may have been growing, but in cities like New Haven? Deindustrialization was a crisis, all the last factories had left, and the crack epidemic had long since taken hold. The huge spike in homicides in the most impoverished parts of the country, like New Haven’s 1994, went along with it, particularly urban communities of color.

    Also, I am really impressed by the video conversation. Except for the phrase “from the streets” which was awkward. This is by far the most interesting and useful thing I have ever seen in the YDN.

  • the1king

    I have to disagree. The high murder rates have nothing to do with high unemployment It is just an excuse. Your telling me the guy who got shot on Edwards st. was killed because the person was unemployed. or the dumb — who killed that 13 year old boy didn’t have a job. They are just scum thugs. Yalies you have to get out of the liberal thinking. the killings and shootings are happening because they are just dumb. They know they are going to get a handout from the government in some form. We as a country made this problem and the libs keep on allowing this to go on. We need to get tough and stop crying about things. If they want to live the thug life then throw them in jail and don’t let them out. Most of these thugs come out and want to continue to live that life. It’s a choice to carry a gun.

  • ethanjrt

    Great concept, good find; the contrasts in the video are kind of hilarious, but I suppose it can’t be helped.