Urban Criminal Violence - Who's Problem?

February 19, 2023
Image by Dannel Malloy

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The headline in a Hartford paper screams, “Mayors take on gun violence: Leaders from some of the state’s biggest cities want crackdown on firearm crimes by repeat offenders.”

One of the cities is Hartford, the Capital city of Connecticut whose mayor, Luke Bronin, recently announced he will not be running for office again.

The mayors,” according to the paper, “are focusing on a narrow set of criminals – often already convicted felons – who are responsible for a large share of the shootings in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport and New Haven.

In Waterbury according to the report, “40% of those arrested for shootings were in probation and 30% were on pretrial release.”

How long, urbanites may want to know, has this been going on? How long have police chiefs in large Connecticut cities known that 39% of criminals arrested in shootings were on pretrial release, 14% on probation, and 5% on parole? During his tenure in office, did Hartford’s police chief ever mention to the departing mayor that the same small knot of criminals in the city over which he presided for 7 years were committing the preponderance of the city’s’ crimes? Surely the subject must have arisen, perhaps more than once, over a donut and coffee at the mayor’s residence.

Most rational people in Hartford probably know that the fault lies not with the police, who know who the repeat offenders are, but with other public officials, many of them politicians who for political reasons seem to have decided over the years that fair punishments no longer deter crime.

Bronin is not a political newbie. Prior to becoming Mayor of Hartford for 7 years, he served in the administration of President Barack Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He was tapped by Dannel Malloy to serve as the Governor’s General Council, after which he became Hartford’s 67th Mayor.

“As the governor’s chief lawyer,” the outgoing mayor’s official biography notes, “Bronin was deeply involved in developing policies to combat veterans’ homelessness, pass common sense gun laws (emphasis mine), expand economic opportunities, reform our criminal justice system (emphasis mine), and protect our environment.”

Somewhere on his political journey, Bronin must have developed a nodding acquaintance with the notion of just punishment as an efficacious crime deterrent; so too with the other mayors of Connecticut’s crime ridden cities.

Democrats have controlled the mayor’s office in Hartford – with one exception, that of Mayor Ann Uccello, 1967-71 – for 68 years. Postmodern progressive notions that condign sentencing does not deter criminal activity and that guns, not criminals, kill people are relatively new penological fables.

Like Chicago and California, Connecticut is generally recognized as a gun control state. And state laws regarding gun control, touted as often as possible by Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, have not stemmed criminal violence – not gun violence -- in their state’s largest cities.

The governors of Connecticut’s major cities mentioned above, all Democrats, are now turning – better late than never – a new page on urban violence, and Governor Ned Lamont is on board. “We are talking about that small group of repeat offenders that provide 90% of the shootings and 90% of the murders. And that is avoidable," Lamont said.

“If you’ve got a history of serious offenses, and you commit a new firearms offense, you should have to post at least 30% of your bail, the bond that's set, in order to get out on pretrial release,” Bronin said.

These were always good ideas, spurned in large part by progressive justices, Democrat legislators, and left leaning professors of penology such as former co-chair of the General Assembly Judiciary Committee Mike Lawlor, Malloy’s prison czar and creator of Connecticut’s get-out-of-jail-early-release credits.

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While it is rarely mentioned in commentary pieces and editorials among Connecticut’s surviving investigative reporters, the root of social disintegration in large cities lies in the destruction of the family unit. Persistent poverty in urban areas persists because the state for years has been financing marginal poverty through its welfare system, what this writer has called a fool’s gold gilded cage that prevents the general public from seizing upon real solutions to urban poverty.

Chris Powell, now retired as Managing Editor and Editorial Page Editor of the combative Journal Inquirer, continues to hammer away in his columns at various false solutions. Powell, very early on, along with Daniel Patrick Moynihan among others, identified urban poverty’s main culprit as the absence of traditional family structures, most importantly the absence of responsible fathers in households: “For starters, most children in the cities have little if any parenting. More than 80% are living without a father in their home, many having no contact with their fathers at all. Many of their mothers are badly stressed by single parenting and trying to make a living, even with welfare benefits. Some have drug problems. Some are so addled that their children are being raised by a grandparent.”

Forcing convicted criminals to post 30% bail when they are rearrested may not be nearly enough to reverse-engineer a half decade of destructive “solutions” to urban anarchy.

Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.


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One comment on “Urban Criminal Violence - Who's Problem?”

  1. Blame it on the lack of a supportive nourishing family. Unfortunately, we can only do so much hand holding.
    These "kids" grow up as aggressively antisocial. While studying for my Med school core rotation at a hospital in Derby Connecticut. I was "jacked" one night while walking back from a rock club on Saturday night by a group of 2 males and 2 females from the projects there. They tried to knock me out but being an Irishman, my skull is hardened stone, I did not go down although I was seeing 'stars'. I should have walked with a bamboo cane or holding a brick. They ran off laughing as if it were a big joke.
    There is a profound lack of respect for their own people and of course others as well.
    Why bail? Keep them in lockup till their trial. Work camps should be the goal for criminals, not sitting all day in a cell watching Netflix and working out all day.

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