December 17th, 2009 | News, University

Forum on gun violence gets heated

Outrage and discord flared up in City Hall’s aldermanic chambers Wednesday evening at a forum that was meant to be a solution-oriented conversation about gun violence.

Many of the more than 100 New Haven residents in attendance were there to express concern about the four homicides that have occurred in the city in the past two weeks.

The Board of Aldermen hearing, hosted by the the Christian Community Commission’s Brotherhood Leadership Summit, started off with a heated question-and-answer session among a panel of pastors and city officials that included Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James-Evans. Attorney Michael Jefferson moderated the panel, speaking about the “emotional issue of gun violence” and asking panel members both for their views on the city’s crime levels and for potential solutions, including curfews in certain neighborhoods and mandatory sentences for certain crimes.

“Don’t expect the answer tomorrow,” panelist and state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield said.

Some audience members said they were disappointed by what they called the city’s lack of response to the recent uptick in crime, while others said parents and educators should be held most responsible for reducing crime.

“Why won’t Yale pay for [crime-prevention programs]?” a young man asked the audience, earning cheers in response.

Five attendees interviewed said they thought the forum was a good idea but that what matters most are the actions city officials decide to take afterward.

“I see a problem,” 47-year-old social worker Carlah Esdaile-Biragg said about crime in New Haven. “I heard a lot of solutions tonight, but what’s going to be the follow-up?”

Attendees were also given data complied by the planet on all of the gun violence-related crime that has occurred in New Haven since 2006.

According to the Institute for Social Development Inc., a New Haven-based social services organization, as of Dec. 11, 11 out of the 13 homicides that have occurred in New Haven this year were linked to guns. (The other two were the Annie Le murder and the Nov. 28 stabbing at Sinergy Club on Crown Street.) All 11 gun violence victims were black, and over 90 percent came from predominantly black neighborhoods, were shot after 9 p.m. and had criminal records.

The 11 gun-related homicides that have occurred in New Haven so far this year have cost the city $8.8 million in medical expenses, according to Social Development Inc.