LAW ENFORCEMENT Mayor: Police will release daily crime info
DANBURY — It took a rash of nearly 20 car break-ins around fitness centers before Mayor Mark Boughton promised Thursday to provide more transparency from the police department.
While the thefts occurred sometime in May, news of the break-ins weren’t revealed until a City Council meeting earlier this week when council member Ben Chianese asked about an uptick in thefts from that month.
Chief Patrick Ridenhour responded to the questions, citing the recent break-ins as the reason for the increase and said that at least one individual had been arrested.
Information on the crime spree and who was arrested was not available from the department Thursday.
“We’re on top of it,” Ridenhour said during the meeting.
While other police departments in the area including Ridgefield and Redding have activity logs available at their front desks on a daily basis where such thefts would be listed, Danbury hasn’t made one available for years.
Unlike an arrest log that says who was charged, an activity log details what calls officers respond to -- whether or not an arrest is made. Residents can usually find out about crime in their neighborhood through local newspaper, radio or online and TV station reports culled from the police activity log.
If those reports are not readily available from police, citizens can’t easily find out about crime in their city.
“It’s pretty common and they serve a couple of functions,” Dan Barrett, the legal director for the state’s ACLU chapter, said about the log, which is provided by many professional, progressive police agencies across the state. “It lets the community know what the civil servants are doing on any given day. It’s helpful for residents to know whats going on that doesn’t lead to an arrest.”
He noted that unlike an arrest log, an activity log can show residents a variety of incidents that police respond to from car accidents to robberies and health emergencies.
Jesse Fogg, the head coach for Crossfit Danbury, said he never heard about the rash of car break-ins near fitness clubs, but he would have warned his customers if he had.
“It would have been nice to know this was happening, particularly near fitness centers so we could have alerted our athletes and told them to lock their doors,” he said, adding that there haven’t been an incidents at Crossfits since they’ve moved to their new location on Christopher Columbus Avenue in the city.
Any activity sheet or police blotter information should be made available to the public, said Tom Hennick, attorney for the state Freedom Of Information Commission. The FOI comission is charged with administering and enforcing the provisions of the state’s Freedom of Information law to ensure that citizens have access to the records and meetings of public agencies, including the police.
More information on the FOI commission is available at http://www.ct.gov/foi/site/
Boughton, the GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate, often touts Danbury’s record as one of the safest city’s in Connecticut while on the campaign trail. The police chief is a mayoral appointee, and reports to Boughton.
“If you put a premium on trumpeting how safe the city is, then you would think part of that is telling the community what’s going on every day, and that’s not always in the arrest records,” Barrett said.
When asked about the activity log on Thursday, Boughton promised to make one available.
The mayor added that while he doesn’t ever recall reviewing a police activity sheet, its information that should be available to the public.
”I am sure we can set up a mechanism for doing it,” he said.
A reporter from The News-Times who has been checking for an activity log at the department during the past month has routinely been told that it’s not available.
”I haven’t heard of that before,” one official responded when asked for the information.
”No, we don’t have that,” responded another.