Violent crime on decline

NHPD_nickdefiesta
Photo by Nick Defiesta.

With January at a close, the Elm City posted its first month without a homicide since August 2009.

New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said violent crime around New Haven was “way down” in January. Yet despite this success, some members of the Board of Alderman, including Board President and Ward 5 Alderman President Jorge Perez, questioned Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s anticipated proposal to budget for 40 to 45 new NHPD officers as the department implements its new community policing strategy.

“I’m happy to see the [DeStefno] administration is paying attention to community policing after they almost single-handedly killed it,” Perez told the New Haven Independent. “[But] they raised taxes on the pretext we’re going to hire more cops. Then DeStefano laid off cops. Then he hired more cops. Less than a year later he wants to hire more cops.”

DeStefano and newly appointed NHPD Chief Dean Esserman announced the new double class of officers at a press conference in Newhallville last Thursday, even as they announced that 21 officers will be moved from the investigative division to patrol. The move is one of several that Esserman has made since taking office on Nov. 18. He has implemented walking beats in each of the Elm City’s 10 districts, and on Friday announced he would be replacing the NHPD’s three assistant chiefs with his own leadership team.

Esserman was “brought into the job” to implement a community policing approach that would reengage citizens in a bid to tamp down violent crime, said Richard Epstein, the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners. As part of the push for this new strategy, DeStefano said he would bring a budget amendment to the Board of Aldermen next week that would transfer funds from other city departments to the NHPD so that it can hire new officers for its patrol division.

Perez told the Independent he wanted to know more specific details before giving his approval to the measure. City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said DeStefano would provide details about his proposal in his State of the City address next Monday.

Perez said he was not opposed to hiring more officers, but wondered if it would be possible to move more officers from other units to patrol instead. He added that he wanted to know how the city’s overall budget is faring before lending his support to the mayor’s proposal.

Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04, who serves on the Board of Aldermen’s public safety and finance committees, said he could not comment on DeStefano’s anticipated proposal because he has not yet seen it. But he said he supported the NHPD’s return to community policing.

“[Community policing] was a refreshing take, a change of action that I was excited to see,” he said. “But walking beats are expensive, and there’s not as wide deployment of forces.”

Despite 2012’s quiet start, New Haven saw two murders last January.

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