New Haven police chief, Lt. Gov. Wyman talk crime on ride-along

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NEW HAVEN – According to an FBI report, Connecticut’s violent crime numbers have improved by 10 percent over each of the past two years, and New Haven’s methods for community outreach are a major contributing factor.

Among the Connecticut cities with population greater than 100,000, New Haven has seen the largest drop in its violent crime rate–from 144 incidents per 10,000 residents in 2012 to 105 last year.

“I do think that we should be, in most of our cities and towns, doing what the chief does and that is community policing,” said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, during a ride-along with New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman Tuesday.

Esserman, who drove Wyman through several of the city’s neighborhoods Tuesday afternoon, says there are many different definitions of community policing, including rebuilding relationships in the neighborhoods.

“We’re the only city left in America that, when you graduate the police academy, every rookie, without exception, spends the first year walking the beat,” said Esserman, who noted that every neighborhood in New Haven has its own walking officers.

Another success for New Haven has been an initiative called Project Longevity, which targets repeat criminals, creates alternatives for potential gang members and rallies neighborhoods against violence.

“We spent six months talking to every probation and parole officer, corrections officer, federal agent and detective as we put together the table of organization of the relevant gangs in the city that were violent,” said Esserman, who added that there are two to three dozen gangs in New Haven.

The FBI report noted that crime rates in Connecticut’s largest cities are at their lowest levels in 40 years.

“As the chief said, you have to be in every neighborhood. We, as state leaders, have to be in every city and town making sure that we can help facilitate this type of success,” said Wyman.

The most powerful tool in policing, Esserman says, is a cell phone because residents often call their neighborhood officers, not 911.

“One of the things we did with our federal grants was we got cell phones for our officers,” said Esserman. “That’s a great thing because residents want to keep the relationship personal,”

Out of states with a population of more than 1.3 million people, Connecticut saw the biggest drop in violent crime in 2014.