Waterbury residents on edge after rash of gun violence, want legislature to act

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Federal crime statistics say while the murder rate is up in Connecticut, overall crime is reportedly down.

This has led many of the leaders at the state capitol to shrug off the call for action.

A News 8 investigation revealed dashcam video from a stolen Uber in Waterbury.

You can hear the teenage passenger yell, “oh my God. Wait, can you pull over?” The armed thief responds, “Get out right now before I shoot you. Get out!”

The young passenger got out safely. The armed thief was on the run.

This week, Waterbury has seen three shootings in less than 24 hours.

Bullets hit a 14-year-old bystander. One of the suspects was a repeat juvenile offender.

Chief Fernando Spagnolo from Waterbury Police says the suspect is known to law enforcement.

“He has recently been arrested on weapons violations, brought to court, sent to detention and released,” Spagnolo said.

The catch and release of juveniles is a major concern.

Waterbury State Representative Geraldo Reyes, the chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said nothing has changed.

“What we are seeing today hasn’t changed from 3 years ago… when we were one of the first big municipalities to go there asking for help,” he said.

Reyes said his delegation asked for help from fellow lawmakers on the legislature’s Public Safety Committee years ago.

Now three years later, many are still at odds over how to fix the juvenile justice system.

“This public safety crisis to me is far bigger right now than COVID. It’s being talked about in people’s living rooms and at the dining room table,” said State House Minority Leader Republican Vin Candelora. Republicans are calling for a special session.

Candelora wants to undo laws put in place a decade ago.

“We look at issues like not being able to detain a juvenile for more than six hours. Certain crimes are very difficult if not impossible to be transferred to adult court,” added Candelora.

Reyes agrees changes are needed. Both say the system isn’t broken but needs updating.

“That does not say that the system is broken. Does it need to be tweaked? Yes,” Reyes said.

Many believe the nature of crime has become more violent. There are incidents involving carjackings, police officers being run down and cars being stolen with children inside. Hartford and New Haven have had state police on patrol in their cities.

Governor Ned Lamont said he has not gotten a request for help from Waterbury’s mayor.

“People who are a threat to society should not be on the streets and I hope that message will be loud and clear,” Lamont said. “We have capacity at our group homes, heavily secured group homes. We can take kids as necessary.”

The Governor’s office told News 8 there is no immediate legislation on the table for a vote.

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