Let me start this posting by saying right up front the owner of "Up or on the Rocks" is a friend of mine. With that being said, I am trying to look at the efforts to shut the club down objectively and with an open mind..
Does Jerry need to share responsibility fro the actions of his patrons... absolutely. These are customers that he attracts to the downtown entertainment district. But with that being said, there is more than enough blame to go around.
Let's start with the office of Mayor Segarra and his quick move to claim responsibility for shutting the club down. Untrue. although Segarra wishes he were a Superior Court Judge, he is not. It would take a court order to close the club down The owner of "Up or on the Rocks" voluntarily shut the club down. Whether he has made a temporary decision or a permanent decision is up to him. Time will tell what pressures are brought to bear and what the future of "Rocks" is.
Also keep in mind shutting down a business also relates to job loss and putting employees out of work, loss of taxes and is not just simply closing the doors. Approximately 30 people would lose their jobs if the club closes.
Another key issue is probably not known, but Mayor Segarra and his former Chief of Staff need to accept and share responsibility for creating an unsafe environment downtown. After the police department started feeling the increasing squeeze of their overtime budget initiated by the City Council, the "downtown Special " was eliminated. In full disclosure, a couple or restaurants that don't attract the late night crowd, balked at portions of the proposal also.
Briefly, the "Downtown Special " was a contingent of Police Officers that patrolled the bar area every weekend. The detail was made up of police Officers working on overtime. Two years ago, for several reasons, the greatest being the overtime costs, the detail was eliminated and never reinstated.
As a way to ease the burden on the Police department budget, meetings were held between the City, barowners and the Hartford Police Union to come up with an alternative. The Union and the City agreed to a compromise for hiring Police Officers by the bar owners. Currently Officers are hired in 8 hour blocks for "PJ's" or private duty jobs. The union and the City agreed to begin offering PJ's to the bar owners in 4 hour blocks which made the cost much more affordable to the bar owners to provide additional security oin the form of uniformed Police Officers.
According to sources familiar with the meetings, for whatever reason the deal was killed by Segarra's former Chief of Staff Jared Kupiec. If Mayor Segarra is serious about safeguarding downtown reveler's. tyhose talks and the process should be renewed right away and give bar owners that wish to be responsible the chance to affordably bring increased security downtown.
I mentioned initially that the bar owner needs to share responsibility for the clientele he opens up his doors for. But I have asked numerous people a question that I think is fair. What could he have done or could he have done to prevent either homicide. They did not happen in the club, but several hundred feet away in surface parking lots. How could he have known that someone had a 9mm handgun in their car and would retrieve it once they went outside to settle an argument.
If we are talking about responsibility, lets put the major portion where it blames. On the families of these callous individuals who think nothing of shooting someone in the chest repeatedly over a spilled drink. Somehow, I think if the truth were known, these "kids" are not coming from loving, nurturing families that have brought them up with a sound value for human life.
As a society we are continuing and adding to a generation of people that make a decision to take human lives as quick as they make a decision what color shirt they are going to wear when they go out. Lets start putting some responsibility on gun manufacturers and the need to start developing "smart weapons". The latest generation of I-Phones is set to come out with a scanner to recognize the users thumbprint to access the phone.
Couldn't that same technology be used to secure weapons from thugs? And lets start putting responsibility on our legislature to pass laws that actually prevent gun violence, rather than feel good bills that do nothing to prevent any of our homicides in urban areas. I am pretty sure that none of the 18 homicides in Hartford this year have been committed by an assault rifle, although many of the handguns seized do have the extended clips. Lets see what kind of teeth are in the sentencing for those violations.
One of the most offensive things about these shootings downtown though are the voices crying out that something needs to be done, "This hurts downtown". Does it take a homicide "Downtown" to get people to wake up speak out? Where has Hartford's business groups worried about the Downtown image been after any of the other killings throughout the City? Is it acceptable for shootings in the poorer areas of the City as long as it doesn't touch the Downtown community?
This is a small City and the outcry for justice and safety should be the same if the victim is from Albany Avenue, Garden Street, South Marshall Street , Park Street or Downtown.
Those rushing to judgement need to step back and take a deep breath and look at the situation.
Like I said before, what could have been done differently to prevent the situation? I have never believed in allowing 18 year olds into bars for any reason, but the fact of the matter is that neither shooter was under 18, so they could have been in any bar legally. The latest Union Place homicide victim was also 21.
The outcry from the Business Improvement District is, to me, grandstanding. What actions did they take after the first shooting? Were any meetings held to address the security of patrons with bar owners after the first homicide or numerous other gun incidents downtown
What is being done to the other numerous clubs that have had shootings or homicides in their vicinity. It is no secret to anyone that the West Indian Social Club has had their far share of gun violence, and shootings as well as homicides of patrons in the area of the Club. I don't even hear our Mayor or City Council addressing that. I guess it is OK because it is not downtown.
What about the Cleveland Café. That has been a problem club that has also had homicides right inside the club and numerous shooting incidents. Ever hear that name being mentioned for a shutdown. Again not downtown, so apparently acceptable for their clients to be shot.
Club Vibez, again, a homicide in the lot. as well as other gun violence The Durham Street homicide victim from Sunday morning and the female surviving shooting victim had both just left there as well as the man arrested for carrying an illegal gun in his waistband that was arrested by Police at the Ranch House That must have been one of the best armed places in Hartford Saturday night.
The action or more appropriately reaction should be the same, they all affect Hartford's image , whether they are Downtown or any other neighborhood. Mayor Segarra;s recent quote that "one homicide is one too many" should be true no matter what neighborhood, not just Downtown
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