With just six weeks to go until Election Day, state police released new crime statistics on Monday that reignited the political battle between Republicans and Democrats over whether crime is a major problem in Connecticut.
Statistics showed that overall crime fell by 2.82% last year, while rape rose by 23% and manslaughter by 2%. Murders rose to 150 statewide in 2021 — the highest in 10 years and up sharply from the recent low of 80 statewide in 2016, according to state police statistics. Murders are up slightly from 147 in 2020 as numbers fluctuate each year.
Crimes in various categories showed a wide range of ups and downs with aggravated assault down 16.76% and motor vehicle theft down 10.57%.
Gov. Ned Lamont, who is locked in an election battle with Republican Bob Stefanowski, told reporters he did not ask the state’s Public Safety Commissioner to release the statistics amid election season. .
“No, it’s up to James [Rovella] to make that call,’ Lamont said at a press conference at state police headquarters in Middletown.
Rovella said some other states recently released their annual statistics for 2021.
“That’s traditionally when we take them out,” Rovella said.
Lamont praised police work at the state and local level.
“These numbers show a very positive trend,” Lamont said. “I remember President Trump’s inauguration where he was talking about the carnage in America and the carnage in the streets and a lot of fearmongering. I think that was incredibly unfair to police forces across the country and what a difference they make. Especially in the Northeast, where our crime rate is considerably lower than some of the southern states – those red states that are much more permissive of guns, much less training, and you see that happening reflected in much higher crime rates too. I think what we’re doing is working.”
But Stefanowski said citizens across the state are acutely aware that crime is a problem.
“These statistics are largely from a year or more, including when the state was dealing with COVID,” Stefanowski said. “Unfortunately for Governor Lamont, the people of Connecticut are not stupid and they are not blind. You only need to turn on your evening news, open a newspaper or speak with your neighbors to know that crime in Connecticut is a problem and a growing threat to communities across our state due to policies that have handcuffed and scapegoated our police and made it harder for them to do their jobs.”
For more than a year, Republicans have been lambasting Democrats over crime — calling for legislative action to tackle a wave of car thefts and car break-ins often committed by minors.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature responded with a bill — signed into law in May by Lamont — that directly tackles catalytic converter theft by prohibiting motor vehicle junkyards and recyclers from receiving a catalytic converter that is not not attached to a vehicle. The move is designed to prevent criminals from cutting car converters and taking them to junkyards in exchange for money.
House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford said Republicans still want to make changes to the police accountability law that was largely passed by Democrats two years ago and signed into law by Lamont. Democrats said they were open to discussions, but they rejected various proposals from Republicans.
Republicans say the convoluted 71-page bill is too tough on police, particularly the “qualified immunity” provisions regarding civil suits that can be brought against officers in their personal capacity. Lawmakers still disagree on the provision’s impact, with some saying it makes it easier to file lawsuits over split-second and in-service decisions and others saying the only major impact would be against officers who act recklessly, rather than make a good- mistake of faith. The disagreement was so split that a Republican amendment on the issue failed in a tie vote.
Candelora also cited the ban on “consent” searches, which officers say reduces the number of guns and drugs removed from the streets during routine traffic checks. Democrats, however, say officers still have wide latitude on ‘consent’ searches which allow police to search a vehicle if they have probable cause because, for example, they saw a gun get out from under a seat.
“To suggest that crime is down across the state – if you bring that information to any individual, they would laugh at that remark,” Candelora said in an interview Monday. “We just don’t have enough troops to enforce the speeding and reckless driving laws on our roads. … In my sleepy town of North Branford, it was non-existent. You’ve never heard of car break-ins or house break-ins. It is now a common conversation throughout my community. So I don’t care what the governor tried to deploy today. He must come to these communities and see what their [Democratic] policies have done to crime in the State of Connecticut.”
As retirements constantly shift the numbers, the state police have at times dipped below 900 troops – down sharply from 1,283 under the government at the time. Mr. Jodi Rell in 2009. The final class of 33 new soldiers will graduate in October, but this class is much smaller than some in the past. In March, 53 soldiers graduated, but that did not include eight colleagues who were fired in an academy cheating scandal.
As troop numbers dwindled, so did the number of traffic stops during the pandemic.
Traffic stops by soldiers most recently peaked in 2014 with nearly 235,000 stops, according to statistics from the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at UConn in Hartford. That total fell to 157,007 in 2019, then to 75,988 in 2020 – the year the ongoing pandemic began. The total fell further to 73,311 for 2021. But officials said those numbers have returned to more normal levels as the state emerges from the pandemic. The total for the first six months of 2022 was nearly 50,000, which is subject to change and revision.
In another development, Hartford Courant columnist Kevin F. Rennie released an audio tape of a local Putnam radio debate with Democrat Christine Maine, who is running against incumbent Republican Rick Hayes in three northeastern cities. east of Connecticut. Maine said she had known many police officers during her previous career as a magistrate in Virginia, adding that “some of them joined the police department because they wanted to beat people up with impunity, they wanted to have sex because the uniform appealed to women and they wanted the speed.”
The question arose during the radio debate when Maine was asked about recruiting more officers at a time when some are reluctant to pursue a career in law enforcement.
The thefts of catalytic converters have taken place in many cities and towns across the state. In Glastonbury, thefts had jumped to a record 56 in less than three full months at the start of 2022, from just 14 for the whole year in 2020, according to police statistics.
Some thieves have been particularly emboldened, creating dangerous situations by fleeing when the police arrive.
In Farmington, Constable James O’Donnell was seriously injured when he was hit by a stolen stolen vehicle on September 20, 2021 after arriving at the scene following a call about a suspected stolen catalytic converter. O’Donnell was pinned between his police cruiser and a car driven by New Britain resident Pedro Acevedo, who was charged with first-degree assault and other charges, the court said. police.
O’Donnell has had multiple surgeries and now has a permanent screw in the bone between his hips and tailbone. O’Donnell recently returned to his police work, a year after the incident.
Christopher Keating can be reached at email@example.com