FBI data shows crime in Conn. down; numbers up for murder

September 28, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Connecticut continues to follow a downward trend in overall number of crimes, recently released FBI data show.

The numbers, however, also show that murders in the state jumped 36 percent, from 77 to 105 from 2016 to 2017; Hartford had an increase of 15 homicides and Bridgeport reported 11 more than the previous year.

“Numbers should not divert our attention from the fact that even one homicide in our city is too many. We can always do better and Bridgeport will always be a work in progress,” said Bridgeport police spokesman Av Harris.

Smaller numbers, like an increase of three murders in New Britain and an increase of two each in Norwalk and Stratford, also contributed to pushing the total number up. There are also various areas including Torrington, Vernon, Bristol and Manchester, which each saw an increase by one homicide from 2016 to 2017.

But there were also declines in homicide totals for some places — including New Haven, which saw a drop of six killings from 2016 to 2017; and East Hartford, which saw three fewer murders between the two years. Several areas saw a decrease of one in the overall number of killings.

“There were 18 homicides in Bridgeport in 2015, and that dropped dramatically to 10 homicides in 2016,” Harris said. “Obviously that number increased significantly in 2017, but the sustained, proactive crime prevention strategy we have put in place with community policing plus cooperation with our federal partners and community organizations we expect will show the 2017 numbers to be an anomaly.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its annual Crime in Connecticut report earlier this week with data based on monthly reports of crime activity provided to the Uniform Crime Reporting program at the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. The 435-page report can be found at bit.ly/FBIreport2017.

Contrary to the data provided by the FBI that numbered the city’s murders at 21, Bridgeport police confirmed 23 homicides in 2017. So far in 2018, killings in the city have declined considerably, with Bridgeport police having confirmed seven homicides. Detectives are still investigating a suspicious death in the city in August, which police said was potentially a homicide.

Looking at the FBI data from 2008 to 2017, offenses in Connecticut — including murder, rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny and motor vehicle theft — have declined over the years.

In 2016, there were 73,078 offenses reported in the state, a 1 percent decline from the number of offenses in 2015. And in 2017, there were 71,883 offenses reported statewide, a 2 percent decrease from 2016.

The total number of certain reported crime — robberies and aggravated assaults, for instance — have slightly fluctuated, with some dropping and others increasing over several years.

Despite data showing overall crime in Connecticut has been on the decline for years, the public might not see it that way, according to John DeCarlo, an associate professor of criminal justice at University of New Haven and a former Branford police chief.

Information about crimes, trends and arrests spread across social media and news sites like wildfire, which, DeCarlo said, might lead the public to believe crime is on the rise.

“I think it has affected the way we perceive the amount of crime, even in light of the fact that crime (in Connecticut) is down,” DeCarlo said.

Not all towns and cities have fallen in line with the overall downward trend.

In Bridgeport, despite the city’s population decrease of nearly 2,000 residents between 2016 and 2017, the data showed violent crimes — murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — increased from 1,115 in 2016 to 1,315 in 2017.

Moving out from Bridgeport, some towns and cities have seen a slight increase in violent crime: Stratford went from 67 reported violent crimes in 2016 to 89 in 2017, Trumbull went from 42 to 55, and Derby went from 39 to 42.

Shelton had 28 incidents of violent crime in both years. Milford had 34 incidents in 2016, which dropped to 24 in 2017.

“We don’t hesitate, we don’t drag our feet in deploying different alternative methods when it comes to policing crimes,” said Milford police spokesman, Officer Mike DeVito. “We don’t subject it just to violent crimes. We have the same methodology for all crimes.”

Throughout Connecticut, from 2016 to 2017, the number of reported burglaries dropped from 10,087 to 8,893. And arson numbers went down from 409 in 2016 to 331 in 2017. There were also declines in aggravated assaults, burglaries and larcenies between the two years.

Though the overall downward trend can be attributed to a variety of different factors, DeCarlo said, the way police and communities work together to prevent crimes has been a huge factor in the overall decline.

“With community policing, the public and the police work on preventing crime before it happens, rather than handle it after it happens,” DeCarlo said.

Harris said fighting crime goes beyond policing.

“It is also critical to stabilize families, provide a good education, access to health care and nutrition, mentoring and economic empowerment and opportunity through” legitimate and not illicit means,” he said.

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