HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gun-involved murders in Hartford have dropped 42 percent and nonfatal shootings are down 29 percent since an anti-gun violence task force was formed just over a year ago, city and state officials said Tuesday.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, acting Police Chief James Rovella and state prosecutors announced the results of the Shooting Task Force's first year of work. The group includes police officers from Hartford and surrounding towns, state police, prosecutors, prison officials and parole officials.
Fifteen people were shot to death in the capital city in the year that ended June 30, down from 26 during the previous year, city police said. Nonfatal shootings dropped to 96 from 136 over the same period.
Authorities made 214 felony arrests and seized 76 firearms, large amounts of drugs and thousands of dollars in cash. Police also made arrests in 10 of the 15 gun-related murders in the past year, a 67 percent clearance rate that is several percentage points higher than the national rate, Rovella said.
"This is staggering numbers," Rovella said in praising the task force. "We put together quite a formidable group of individuals and agencies."
When the task force was formed in June 2011, shootings were up nearly 14 percent and headed for a total of up to 200 victims for the year. The number of shooting victims in the city through June 30 of this year was down 27 percent compared with June of last year.
Segarra said he hoped the task force's work, beside reducing violence, helps "eradicate the ... unfair perception that is oftentimes given to our city," referring to Hartford's reputation for violence.
"I will not be at peace until hopefully we get rid of all the violence," the mayor said.
Rovella said law enforcement is only part of the solution, and officials are working on a community-wide approach to violence prevention including getting faith-based organizations involved.
But the task force has been an expensive effort, Rovella noted. He couldn't immediately provide the cost. He said the group will continue operating until the fall, when officials will determine whether to continue the effort.
Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy said the team effort has led to successful prosecutions. There have been convictions in 67 criminal cases investigated by the Shooting Task Force with prison sentences ranging from three to 60 years. Seventy-four other cases remain pending.
Tuesday's announcement of the task force's results came seven weeks after state, federal and local officials unveiled another plan to stem gun violence in Connecticut's three largest cities — Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the "Focused Deterrence" program would be targeting the "fairly small number of people" responsible for the vast majority of gun crimes in the three cities.
While Connecticut's overall crime rate is at its lowest since 1968, Malloy said gun violence in the state's major cities was unacceptably high. Last year, 94 out of 129 homicides occurred in those three cities.
Many details of "Focused Deterrence" weren't released. Malloy said the initiative, which an initial $500,000 price tag, involves having law enforcement, probation and parole officers, clergy, neighborhood leaders and others work together and focus on the group that is most responsible for gun crimes in the three cities.
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