Many parts of Hartford's "crime puzzle" seem to have been put in place over the last 12 months. The implementation of the Shooting Task Force, the permanent appointment of Chief Rovella and even the "faith based" forum held recently by the Hartford City Council are all important pieces.
Hartford's violence, similar to many large cities, is not something we can "Police"our way out of. I think Chief Rovella and others would probably readily admit that the problem is far greater.
Last night I stopped by the crime scene of our latest homicide on Sterling Street. Some of the details are horrendous, especially related to the victim, as if his death wasn't bad enough. The yellow crime scene tape roped across the section of Sterling Street marked the area where the shooting occurred.
The area was still full of police vehicles and police officers on the scene. Shell casings were waiting to be picked up and tagged. Detectives were scanning the street with flashlights looking for additional evidence and a clump of someones hair that had been torn out during an apparent altercation was eventually placed in an evidence bag.
The victim was actually gunned down and died in the street in front of his 4 year old daughter. The saddest part was that the girl watched her father die as an apparently innocent victim of Hartford's violence. He was not the intended victim, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. From what I was told by witnesses, the shooter opened fire on the crowded street, a street occupied by families and many children out on a warm summer night.
Chief Rovella often talks about the moral compass of these shooters who make the decision to settle arguments at the barrel of a gun. I am not sure this suspects moral compass is capable of being adjusted if she was so cold blooded that she would fire into a crowd and kill an innocent father..
The other sad observation was that our communities almost seem to be immune to the violence. People would approach the crime scene tape carrying their groceries or other items and be escorted to their front doors by a police officer. Only one person that passed me while I was there actually asked me what happened, and even when I explained it. it almost seemed like they were used to it,
The issue of the moral compass is a huge factor to be addressed. I had a conversation earlier with Congressman Murphy as he was talking to voters at Rawson School. We began talking about Chief Rovella and his plans and I mentioned to Murphy my conversations with the Chief about his plans to buils the PAL program. Murphy to his credit was well aware of the success of the Waterbury PAL program which I wrote about here a couple weeks ago.
Murphy mentioned how less violent Waterbury was and he talked about the officer's in Waterbury and how they were involved with Waterbury youth at a much younger age , during the critical years when their "moral compasses" are still capable of being adjusted and influenced by positive role models.
State Representative Doug McCrory from the 7th District, myself and Chief Rovella met recently to discuss the needs of the PAL program and its future and building some solid partnership with other groups. Since much of this violence clearly impacts McCrory's district, he has a vested interest in being part of the solution. McCrory has a timeline he hopes to stick to for his bridge building and realizes time is of the essence.
Congressman Murphy, potentially Senator Murphy, can also play a role since the solution to expand the program will not be without costs. Costs that the Police Department budget may not easily absorb. But I guess the big question is what is the cost of each homicide. We know after last night there is a 4 year old girl who will now grow up without the influence of her father in her life. No father to provide for her and keep her "moral compass" adjusted as she grows.
I haven't written much about the "faith based forum" but that is another big part of the puzzle. The church community potentially has a large impact on our young people. The conversations have begun, some solutions have been put on the table, and now they need to be enacted. The schools also need to do their part.
It is not enough to warehouse kids every day focusing on increasing their test scores. There is far more that needs to be done, after school mentoring programs , cooperation with the PAL program and assisting in providing resources to get the job done, including facilities necessary to make it happen.
If people in Hartford are serious about protecting and developing our children, hopefully they will get on board before another 4 year old has to watch her father gunned down