After a raid by some 45 New Haven police officers in two neighborhoods Tuesday did not find the perpetrators behind a recent spate of murders in the city, local and federal authorities said more operations are coming “in the near future.”
NHPD spokesman Joseph Avery said police detectives searched more than 100 locations on Tuesday and arrested and questioned nine people with outstanding warrants. While Avery said none of these nine is believed to be behind the recent unsolved murders, their questioning may advance the investigations, he said.
In addition to the nine arrests on Tuesday, police talked with residents, handed out business cards and let people know police are on the case, he said. Because the murder investigations are ongoing, Avery said he could not comment on the specific information the police obtained.
“The whole idea is to talk to people and to get information and tips on the shootings,” Avery said.
NHPD Chief James Lewis said the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with the department to conduct Tuesday’s raid. FBI spokesman Bill Reiner said the agency — which has worked with the NHPD on the New Haven Safe Streets Task Force, a law enforcement initiative composed of local, state and federal officers, since the early 1990s— will continue to work with the NHPD on future raids.
For Tuesday’s operation, the taskforce combined the police department’s knowledge of New Haven’s neighborhoods with the FBI’s technology in order to identify all the outstanding arrest warrants in the Newhallville and Dixwell area, Reiner said. Five of the seven unsolved murders of black males since October have taken place in Newhallville or Dixwell, all of them involving handguns.
Many of the murders have been execution-style, with a gunshot to the front or back of the head. The murders reflect a systemic problem with gun violence in the city’s neighborhoods, leaders in New Haven’s predominantly black communities say. The slayings have also coincided with the release of ex-felons from prison, two community leaders said at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting Tuesday night.
Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead said it appears that retaliation was the cause of many of the recent murders. Each week 25 ex-felons are released back into the city, Avery said, and there is little support from the city for their reintegration.
Reiner said using outstanding arrest warrants to conduct searches gives law enforcement officers a reason to gather information about the perpetrators of the violence by interacting with other members of the community. The New Haven Superior Court alone has 628 outstanding arrest warrants for people who violated their probations.
Police officials and half a dozen community leaders said preventive programs such as the city’s youth mentoring program are also important to stopping the bloodshed.
Community activist Barbara Fair of People Against Injustice, a New Haven-based criminal-justice reform agency, said the city must focus on underlying problems like poverty first and foremost.
“Many people in these neighborhoods are living in a state of despair,” she said. “There are no jobs, no options, just helplessness. We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem.”
At the police commissioners’ meeting Tuesday evening, Lewis said he hopes the NHPD’s increased seizure of illegal weapons will also reduce violence. In 2009, police seized a record-high 299 firearms. But Lewis has said gun seizures alone cannot make a large impact if communities continue to see crime and disorder as normal parts of life.
“We hope [the raids] have an impact,” Richard Epstein, the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said in an interview Thursday. “But there are a number of issues at play here and ultimately no magic bullet.”
Epstein said that while the NHPD will continue the raids, the department will continually reevaluate their effectiveness.
Lewis and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will hold a press conference today to discuss the NHPD’s success in firearms enforcement and how it can reduce violent crime.