When New Haven rang in the new year, the city’s last homicide — the shooting of Darryl McNair, 58, which came on the heels of three other homicides in August — was more than four months in the past.
“Our entire community rallied this year, in what I call peaceful retaliation against urban violence, and the results are undeniably positive,” Mayor Toni Harp said in her state of the city address Tuesday evening.
But on Jan. 23, 56-year-old Winnie Evans was killed in what investigators say was a fire intentional set in his apartment building.
Still, 2014 was an exceptional year in terms of crime in the Elm City. Homicides fell 40 percent from 2013 — from 20 to 12 — and non-fatal shootings fell by 9.1 percent. Overall, the crime rate dropped by 14.5 percent.
In her address Tuesday evening, Harp attributed the reduced crime to collaboration between different city departments, notably the New Haven Police Department and the Fire Department.
Harp singled out the Board of Alders in her address for helping provide funding and services that committed resources for 100 new sworn police personnel. Spokeperson for City Hall Laurence Grotheer added that NHPD Chief Dean Esserman, who reintroduced community policing to the Elm City, helped to combat a growing distrust between police and their communities. Esserman, who was selected last month to serve on a national advisory board, mandated that each NHPD officer engages in a “walking beat.” Each new officer is required to spend time walking around the city to get to know the area and its resident.
The contrast between the 2014 statistics and those of 2011, when Esserman took over as chief, is stark. In 2011, the city saw 34 homicides in what then-Mayor John DeStefano Jr. described in 2012 as “carnage.” The spike in homicides coincided with a 17-year high in the overall crime rate.
“New Haven has embraced community-based policing, [so] any tension between police and the community is greatly reduced,” Grotheer said.
Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth said she thought many factors had impacted the drop in crime. She pointed to the City Youth Stat program, which encourages collaboration between organizations — including the NHPD, social workers, firefighters and community agencies — in order to identify youths who may be at risk of entering a life of crime.
However, Roth added that efforts to enhance neighborhood block watches — groups of volunteers who oversee the safety of their neighborhoods — could further reduce crime in the city and reinforce community policing.
However, it is not just New Haven that is experiencing new lows in reported crime rates. According to an address by Gov. Dannel Malloy at the Yale Law School Tuesday night, 2014 saw the lowest crime rate in Connecticut in 48 years.
“Over the last four years, violent crime is down 36 percent and criminal arrests have decreased by nearly 28 percent,” a release from Malloy’s office said. “Violent crime in the state’s three largest cities has fallen 15 percent since 2008.”