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Hartford sees spike in gun violence in 2020, but murder rate holds steady

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 7/3/2020 By Christine Dempsey, Hartford Courant

New statistics show that there has been a 36.7% increase in shootings in Hartford this year over last.

“It’s been a challenging year in regards to shootings,” said Lt. Paul Cicero, head of the Major Crimes Division. “It’s still considerably less than it was two years ago, but our focus is to keep getting those numbers down and down.”

The latest numbers show that as of June 27, there were 22 more shootings in the capital city, with 82 victims. In 2019, 60 people had been shot.

The number of shootings in the same time period is slightly less than in 2018, when there were 87, but up from 2017, when there were 61. In 2016, there were 48 shooting victims.

June was a particularly tough month. In the four weeks before June 27, 30 people were shot in the city -- more than one a day — compared to 12 in 2019, an increase of 150%, the stats show.

Eight of this year’s shootings were deadly.

“You know, it’s troubling to me, because it seems we had a hand on it, it seems like we turned in in the right direction,” said Rev. Henry Brown of Mothers United Against Violence “You’d think, we’re in the midst of a pandemic, people wouldn’t go out and shoot people.”

Two things are playing roles in the trend, he said: distraction and systemic racism.

“With the emphasis on the Jennifer Dulos case, and the coronavirus, people are not looking at the shootings that are taking place,” Brown said. And government leaders “look at people in the inner city different than they do [people] in the suburbs.”

“I think the police are doing all they can do,” he said. “We need to come to the table and have honest conversations. It is important for us to rally around each other and support each other.”

Because it is early July and shootings tend to increase in warmer weather, Brown said “I’m frightened for what’s ahead of us.”

A rise in gun violence

In all, there were 12 murders in 2020, compared to 11 within the same time period last year. Three of the 2020 homicides were fatal stabbings, and one person died in an arson fire, police said.

The number of homicides has remained fairly steady, with 13 by June 27, 2018; 14 in 2017 and 10 in 2016.

Mayor Luke Bronin noted that the rise in shootings has unfolded across the state and country.

“We haven’t seen any consistent pattern that explains the variation, but we know that cities across Connecticut and across the country have seen significant increases over the past few months,” he said. “We’re obviously in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis and economic crisis, with huge social disruption, and while we can’t attribute specific shootings to that, the national trends suggest that there probably is some relationship.”

New Haven had a 16.1% increase in shootings as of June 21, with 36 this year compared to 31 last year, according to the police department’s website.

And there were 125 shootings in New York City the first three weeks of June -- more than double the number recorded over the same time period last year, the New York Times reported. It was the most June gun violence the city has seen in nearly a quarter of a century.

Bronin said police have made arrests in 10 of the 12 homicides in 2020, calling it “an unprecedented solve rate for our city, which we hope sends a strong message that we will do everything in our power to bring perpetrators of violence to justice swiftly.”

“Over the last four years we have worked hard to build a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence, working closely with organizations doing violence reduction work on the ground, and we’re continuing to focus intensely on that work,” Bronin said.

More auto theft, fewer prostitution arrests

Other crimes on the rise include auto theft (up 28.3%) and robberies (up 16.3%), which Cicero said include store holdups and street robberies. Although there were 121 robberies this year, he pointed to a large reduction in the number of holdups over four years, from 200 in 2016 to 104 last year.

Rape, or first-degree sexual assault, dropped 8.7% in 2020, with 21 reported rapes compared to 23 last year. Larcenies fell 5.7%, with 1,197 this year compared to 1,269 last year.

Police made 90.7% fewer prostitution arrests this year, the stats show, with 43 in 2019 and only 4 this year.

Cicero said police are focusing on getting prostitutes help instead of arresting them. Many are addicted to drugs, and “arresting someone that’s drug dependent is not going to fix the problem,” he said.

He also said operations such as prostitution stings have been curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine Dempsey can be reached at cdempsey@courant.com.

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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