Violent crime in New Haven decreased in 2016, continuing a five-year trend in which such numbers have fallen, according to city crime statistics released by the New Haven Police Department.
The data, announced at a press conference held at City Hall on Jan. 12, shows that the numbers of homicides, rapes and robberies in 2016 decreased from 2015 numbers. The 13 homicides committed in New Haven this past year represented a small decrease from the 15 that occurred in 2015, but a large drop from the 34 committed in 2011. The number of rapes in the city dropped from 62 in 2015 to 52 in 2016, tying a five-year low. Robberies have also dropped off significantly in the city over the past five years, from 765 in 2011 to 395 last year.
“On average for 10 years, 126 people in the city of New Haven were shot each year,” NHPD Interim Chief Anthony Campbell said at the press conference. “But for the last four years, that range has dropped to the 60s.”
In an interview with the News, NHPD Spokesman David Hartman attributed these successes to the department’s commitment to community policing, partnerships with organizations such as Project Longevity — a local violence reduction initiative — and decreasing crime nationwide.
Although the NHPD has advocated for community policing for the past two decades, the most significant development came in 2011, when officers began walking neighborhood beats, he said. Hartman added that the increased visibility of officers in communities around the city and the hiring of new officers that better represent the city’s demographic makeup are the backbone of New Haven’s community policing effort.
“The message is clear: the police force must be a reflection of the community,” Hartman said.
In fact, 50 percent of officers currently in the department are minorities or females, and the NHPD is hiring more New Haven locals than ever before, he said.
Similarly, the number of nonfatal shootings in the city has also seen a significant drop over the past several years, from 133 in 2011 to just 67 in 2016. At the press conference, Assistant Police Chief Achilles Generoso emphasized how proud he was of the department for this improvement in community safety.
“We reduced shootings dramatically in this city and have been consistent with that over the past four years,” Generoso said. “That’s the story. We’ve been consistent.”
However, the data also indicated increases in several other types of violent crime. Although much lower than figures from five years ago, there were four more nonfatal shootings and 55 more shots fired in the Elm City in 2016 than in 2015. Additionally, the number of motor vehicle thefts rose from 699 to 738 — a 5.6 percent increase — and the number of larcenies increased by 9.7 percent, from 3,669 to 4,025.
Hartman said property theft crimes such as larceny and motor vehicle theft are “popular” and have become “sensationalized” in recent years.
“There are going to be waves in crimes, and it’s a matter of what is preventable,” he added.
Several small business employees in the city said they have noticed a marked improvement in crime prevention in their neighborhoods over the past few years.
Fatou Samb, who for the last 13 years has owned Braids Plus, a hair braiding salon in the Dwight neighborhood, said the area around her salon has become noticeably safer since 2011.
“There’s absolutely been much more of a police presence in the last few years, and that’s created a big change,” Samb said.
She added that about four years earlier someone broke into her car and those of several other people in the neighborhood, but that there have not been any other similar robberies in the last three years. She recently bought a house just around the corner from her shop, but said that she would not have moved into that same neighborhood five years ago. However, she noted that a pharmacy about a block from the store was robbed over the summer.
Enrique Sanchez, who works at Haven Market in Dwight, said in the last four years, the area around the market has undergone a major transformation.
“Three or four years ago, it was so bad around here, but now it’s alright,” Sanchez said, noting that around 2012, two stores down the street from the market were robbed.
Sanchez said the drop in crime came with increased police presence in the neighborhood.
New Haven has 10 police districts.