The New Haven Police Department will form a new shootings task force aimed at investigating and cracking down on shootings in the Elm City.
With the help of two inspectors from the State’s Attorney’s Office, the new squad will set up shop on the third floor of the NHPD’s Union Avenue headquarters, where they will revisit unsolved non fatal shootings and work toward prosecuting offenders. The new unit, modeled on a similar squad formed last July in the Hartford Police Department, is the NHPD’s response to the unsettling number of unsolved shootings last year.
“There were 133 shootings last year, but that’s not the shocking number,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in the State of the City address he delivered Monday night. “The shocking number is that only 27 were solved.”
Led by Michael Sullivan, a former New Britain police officer, and Joe Howard, a former NHPD officer, the new unit will have seven or eight members, with some additional officers assigned on a temporary basis, NHPD Chief Dean Esserman said. NHPD spokesman David Hartman said the members of the new team have not yet been selected.
In addition to NHPD officers, the task force will include representatives from the stateBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Correction. Kevin Doyle, a prosecutor from the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office, will prosecute shooting cases handled by the unit.
The new task force is modeled on the Hartford Police Department’s “Shooting Team,” whichbegan operation last July and made 42 felony weapon-related arrests in its first three months.
“The work of the Hartford Shooting Team has been nothing less than exemplary,” Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said in an Aug. 31 press release announcing eight arrests. “Investigations spanning cold cases, shootings and possession of illegal firearms possession are being closed by arrest and sent to the State’s Attorney for prosecution, clearly sending the message that those who choose to act violently will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The new unit will will help combat recidivism, since many shooting perpetrators are not first-time offenders and are likely to commit repeat offenses if not caught, Sullivan told the New Haven Register on Feb. 1. The new shootings unit will focus on the “small nucleus” of offenders and work with prosecutors to “keep them locked up,” he added.
DeStefano and other city officials repeatedly stressed last year that around 70 percent of New Haven’s crime comes from either the narcotics trade or the prison re-entry population, highlighting the need to target potential repeat offenders.
The NHPD’s Major Crimes Unit — which formerly handled the shooting cases that the new task force will take on — will continue investigating homicides and other particularly serious crimes, said Hartman.