Connecticut police chiefs on Friday expressed concern about a spike in crime involving young people they believe is related to the coronavirus pandemic, as teens spend more time away from school because of remote learning and canceled after-school activities.
Police are seeing an alarming increase in car thefts and robberies involving minors, as well as a troubling increase in shootings involving teens and young adults, the police chiefs of New Haven and Waterbury told Gov. Ned Lamont and other administration officials during a video conference discussion about law enforcement issues arising during the pandemic.
“We have an issue where a lot of our young folks are not in school,” New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said. “These are young folks that need that structure … that school provides them. Many of them are making bad decisions. … Every week we’re dealing with robberies and stolen vehicles. We’re dealing with juveniles that are committing robberies. And it's very concerning.”
Crime rates dropped significantly during the 10 years ending in 2019, but violent crime has increased in many cities across the country this year, the chiefs said.
In New Haven, there were 19 murders in the city as of Nov. 8, up nine during the same period in 2019. Assaults with firearms were up 39%, and robberies with firearms increased 23%, according to the city's latest data.
In Hartford as of Nov. 28, there were 22 murders this year, down one from the same period last year, but shooting incidents increased 58% to more than 200 this year. Aggravated assaults were up 20% and car thefts were up 58%.
The number of new juvenile criminal court cases in the state has been declining in recent years. But as of Nov. 30, there were nearly 1,950 pending juvenile cases, more than the 1,905 pending cases in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019, according to the state Judicial Branch.
Police in Connecticut's cities have been working with Project Longevity and other groups, as well as community leaders and activists, to try to curb violence through programs offering therapy, housing and employment assistance, education and social services.
Lamont announced Friday that New Haven and Waterbury police will be receiving grants of $125,000 apiece from federal coronavirus-related aid to help quell the violence.