Updated at 6:58 p.m. on Oct. 15.
Though crime rates are unequal across the state, Connecticut communities, organizations and local governments are all taking a stand against violent crime.
Tuesday night, the Elm City saw its 13th homicide of the year. According to a New Haven Police Department press notice, officers were dispatched to 210 Davenport Ave. after reports of gunfire. The victim, 19-year-old Maurice Richardson, is also the second homicide victim this week. And last Thursday, 29-year-old Antoine Heath was shot on Chapel Street, west of the Ella T. Grasso Boulevard.
Despite these two recent shootings, this year’s current homicide rate is a far cry from the 34 homicides seen in the Elm City in 2011, and far better than statistics seen in the state capitol. This year, New Haven had three two-month periods without a homicide. NHPD spokesman David Hartman said Tuesday morning that this is not entirely unusual, but that the department is not celebrating yet.
“We’ll celebrate when nobody gets killed in New Haven,” Hartman said.
Still, community organizations and local leadership have been taking action to ensure violent-crime statistics continue to decrease.
Project Longevity, an effort launched by city, state and federal officials, aims to target the small communities which cause the majority of the city’s gun violence.
“There’s always going to be a criminal element to society as long as there are humans walking the earth,” Stacy Spell, the New Haven project manager for Project Longevity, said. “[But] we’re seeing people actively being engaged in their communities. You have people taking active roles in the destiny of their communities.”
The project has been frequently cited as a key contributor to reductions in violent crime. But Hartman said any number of factors could have caused the recent decline in crime rates, adding that it is difficult to identify the cause of a spike or drop in crime rates because New Haven is such a small city.
Barbara Tinney, the executive director for the New Haven Family Alliance, said community policing helps lower crime rates by allowing officers to be more sensitive to community concerns. And communities themselves have also become less willing to accept criminal behavior that affects their daily lives, she added.
“The community over time gets less and less tolerant and gets more willing to get folks that need to be out of our community out of our community,” Tinney said.
Spell echoed this idea, noting that even when just a small number of people in the Elm City own illegal firearms, the entire community is put at risk.
For years, nonprofit organizations have been working toward community interventions in crime and addressing socioeconomic factors associated with crime such as joblessness and poverty. At the start of this month, City Community Services Administrator Martha Okafor announced a $1 million grant that aims to curb recidivism in New Haven through coordinated interventions known as Project Fresh Start.
“This trending down has national implications,” Tinney said. “It reflects a more collaborative effort that our communities are safer.”
While New Haven’s homicide rates have been declining, on Sept. 1, Hartford became the New England city with the most homicides in 2015. So far this year, the city has had 26 homicides — seven more than 2014’s count.
Yet, Hartman stressed that homicides are not the best indicators of the level of violence on New Haven’s streets, adding that shootings provide a more accurate gauge.
Hartford saw 105 shootings this year, according to an Oct. 3 report from the Hartford Police Department. This 22 percent increase in shootings stands in contrast with a 136 percent increase in Hartford homicides this year.
The Hartford community and local organizations are working closely to reduce this violence, efforts that have been mirrored in New Haven.
“The community is united to stand against violence, as it has been. Hartford is steadfast in its commitment to see an end to senseless gun violence,” Tiana Hercules, project coordinator for Project Longevity in Hartford, said.
Mayor Toni Harp will hold a joint press conference with Gov. Dannel Malloy today at 10 a.m. to discuss Project Fresh Start and other local efforts.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of New Haven homicides in 2015. In fact, there have only been 13. The headline of the article has been changed to reflect this correction.