HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The call for action to stop a wave of crime by juveniles took center stage at the Capitol On Wednesday. Senate Republicans rolled out a big plan called “A better way to a safer Connecticut.” But Democrats say it would roll back years of progress.
How safe is Connecticut? Republican Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly says we have a crisis. “This has innocent lives individuals who are dying in our streets we need to deal with this. This is an emergency,” he said.
A comprehensive 16-page plan, with two dozen ideas developed from the streets after several high-profile crimes including a kidnapping in Marlborough outside a grocery store.
“God forbid they’re putting groceries in their car at 9 o’clock at night or they forgot to lock the car in their driveway and the blame is on them? no!” said State Senator John Kissel.
The goal is to end juvenile injustice, create opportunity, and make the state safe. One fix is increasing how long a juvenile can be held. Right now, after 6-hours they are released awaiting a court date.
State Senator John Kissel says it creates a dangerous gap. “They won’t be before a judge for two weeks and then quite often they have a public defender and they will ask for a two-week continuance and that means that young person is out for about a month before anybody in authority addresses the underlying crime.”
The plan also calls for a whole slew of reforms to the juvenile crime system. Including allowing 14-year-olds to get transferred to adult court for violent crimes. Republicans say the wrap-around services are better.
State Sen. Kevin Kelly says it’s not punitive. “What we are looking for are better services.”
But top Democrats say kids should not be in contact with adult criminals.
“I don’t think that we should open this up so that when juveniles commit any felony they are in the adult system I don’t see that as a way to move forward,” said State Senator Gary Winfield the Chair of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
The Republican plan also rolls back reforms on the police accountability law which Democrats championed. State Senator Winfield co-wrote the law. “I am completely unconvinced by the arguments made that we should walk that policy back.”
Democrats say FBI statistics show in 2020, Connecticut’s violent crime rate was 55% lower than the national average. Republicans say that the same report shows Hartford is on pace for one of the deadliest years in decades, 29 murders have been reported to date, a 61.1% increase from last year.
In New Haven murders are up 37.5%, assault with firearms up 9.5%, shots fired up 68%. And in Waterbury all crimes are up 13.4%, murder is up 28.6%, auto theft is up 23%.
The Republican plan touts holistic ideas for job growth and safer housing. Which democrats acknowledge they agree with. Legislative leaders and the governor have seen it.
Lamont is open to taking action. “There are some things that would make a difference whether we do that in special session, or regular we should do it.”