Homicide spate plagues Elm City

Homicides

New Haven has been struck by three murders in the past nine days, lifting the city’s murder tally to a total of five homicides this year.

The last homicide to hit the streets of New Haven took place Friday evening, when the New Haven Police Department received reports of a shooting in the area around the Super Deli #7, a convenience store located at 1613 Chapel St., just a six-minute drive from Yale’s central campus. When the officers arrived at the convenience store at 7:06 p.m., they secured the scene and learned that the victim, Richard Eichler, had been transported by private car to the St. Raphael campus of Yale-New Haven Hospital, department spokesman David Hartman said. Eichler, a 26-year-old New Haven resident, died from the gunshot wounds shortly afterwards.

Detectives from the department’s Major Crimes Division and Bureau of Investigation have started their investigations and are currently in the process of interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, Hartman said. He added that according to several witnesses, the suspect is an African-American male of short stature, wearing dark purple pants and a blue sweater at the time of the shooting.

Friday’s homicide is the third to hit the Elm City in just over a week, after a nearly 65-day murder-free streak — an interval New Haven had not seen since March 2012.

Roughly 48 hours before Friday’s homicide, on Wednesday, April 3, Asdrubal Bernier, 32, was fatally shot in front of 145 Wolcott St., in the heart of the Fair Haven neighborhood of the city. While investigations into Bernier’s death are still ongoing, several witnesses have described the shooter as an African-America male, between 25 and 35 years old, Hartman said. According to the same witnesses, the suspect might have fled in a black pickup truck, leaving Bernier on the ground, Hartman said.

And just four days prior to Bernier’s murder, a shooting in Newhallville ended with the death of Eric Forbes, 33. A few minutes before being shot, Forbes had left the Taurus Café, a nightclub at 520 Winchester Ave., where he was seen having an altercation with two unknown men. Detectives are still completing their investigations into this week’s murders, Hartman said, adding that all three cases are receiving much attention from the police department’s Detective division.

With five homicides in total this year, New Haven has reached more than twice the murder rate for this time last year. Still, the 2013 murder count is far down from the 10-homicide high in the first trimester of 2011 — a grisly year that saw a total of 34 murders in only 12 months.

Earlier this year, at a Jan. 9 press conference in City Hall, New Haven officials reported a 50 percent drop in the number of homicides from 2011 to 2012 — a fall that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and other city officials have largely attributed to city policies aimed at supporting youth programs, preventing recidivism and strengthening the police force.

Many of these initiatives have worked in concert with NHPD Chief Dean Esserman’s return to a model of community policing in November 2011. Community policing, which moves officers away from their desks and puts them on walking patrols throughout the city, began in New Haven under former NHPD Chief Nick Pastore in the early 1990s and was largely credited with the resulting drop in the crime rate.

Although the three homicides followed one another in close succession, the events are not indicative of a new trend in New Haven’s crime, according to Mark Abraham ’04, executive director of DataHaven, a nonprofit organization that compiles public statistics for the greater New Haven area.

“Because of the small numbers and random distribution of homicides over time, it is not unusual in any city for many months to go by without a murder, and then for several to cluster together within a few weeks time,” Abraham said.

But Abraham added that data collected over the past 10 years indicates the frequency of homicides in the Elm City has approximately doubled since 2003-’05, rising to roughly two murders per month on average in the past three years.

“The long-term trend of rising homicide is one that we need to work on substantially reversing,” Abraham said. “I think it is too early to determine whether or not any new tactics or approaches have been able to do this.”

At this time last year, the city had recorded two murders, en route to a three-year low of 17 homicides.

Correction: April 8

A previous version of the graph accompanying this story misspelled homicide. 

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