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Violent crime, motor vehicle theft drop again in CT, report finds

Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, answers a question about the budget at the State Capitol on Monday, June 5, 2023.
Yehyun Kim
Connecticut Mirror
Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, answers a question about the budget at the State Capitol on Monday, June 5, 2023.

Violent crime in Connecticut continued a downward trend in 2022, according to a new report, contradicting some Republicans’ claims during the most recent general election that violence was spiraling out of control.

Connecticut saw a 13% decrease in violent crime between 2021 and 2022 — from 6,272 offenses to 5,464, according to the state’s annual crime report released on Monday.

The violent crime rate per 100,000 residents in 2022 was the state’s lowest in the last decade. Property crime offenses fell by 3% since the last report. Overall crime decreased by 4%.

“This report demonstrates that Connecticut continues to be one of the safest states in the country, with violent and property crimes down from the previous year and below or trending toward pre-pandemic levels,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement late Monday afternoon.

The new crime statistics refute Republican claims raised when last year’s crime report was released that Connecticut, typically regarded as one of the safest states in the nation, is dealing with an out-of-control crime problem.

“I think, overall, what I continue to hear from my constituency is crime is probably the biggest issue out there for them,” House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, told the Connecticut Mirror late Monday.

“While I’m hopeful that it is going down and people’s quality of lives are improving, it’s just not what we’re seeing every day on our television,” Candelora added. “I just don’t think, generally, the public is going to be excited about this report. And they’re probably going to think there’s a disconnect to it.”

During the 2023 legislative session, crime was at the center of GOP opposition to expanding parole eligibility for young adults, keeping certain children from interacting with the judicial system, and maintaining a reformed commutation system aimed at giving more incarcerated residents opportunities for release.

During the last general election season, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski referred to crime in Connecticut as an “immediate crisis of public safety.”

But the new findings show that violent crimes are decreasing and offer what leading Democrats say is a more nuanced perspective.

Violent crime consists of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes are defined as burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Murder decreased by 14% from 2021 to 2022, 158 reported offenses to 136.

The number of murders last year in Connecticut represented a 46% increase since 2013, while the U.S. as a whole experienced an uptick in the same category. And the state’s murder rate per 100,000 residents is still far below the country’s.

Rape, robbery and aggravated assault in Connecticut have all decreased during the same time frame.

Motor vehicle theft, a major area of legislative focus throughout the pandemic, has decreased by 16% since 2020 — from 8,472 to 7,103. From 2021 to 2022, motor vehicle thefts dropped 8.5%.

Connecticut has seen a 14% increase in motor vehicle thefts since 2013, but the state isn’t an outlier. The U.S. rate for motor vehicle theft per 100,000 residents has increased from 221.3 to 282.7 over the same period.

Burglary, larceny and arson have also decreased over the last decade and in the last year, with the exception of a small increase in larceny from 2021 to 2022, according to the data.

Candelora said Monday that he believes the decline shown in the report likely, in part, has to do with a reduction in the state’s police force.

“It’s not a matter of crime is down per se, but the amount of reporting is down because we just have less policing throughout the state of Connecticut,” he said.

However, the size of a police force alone has little statistical significance for crime. Research has shown that police forces spend a considerable amount of time and resources on initiating stops rather than responding to calls for service, which could include calls about violence. In New Haven, for example, dispatch data between 2018 and 2020 showed that violent offenses made up less than 5% of the calls officers there responded to.

But, as Candelora said, the data and research aren’t likely to go far with the legislature’s Republican caucus, which often places anecdote and personal experience over the numbers.

Debates about how to reduce crime are all but guaranteed to continue when lawmakers return to the state Capitol in February.

“Any crime is a concern, whether it be a property crime, a purse snatching or a homicide. But Connecticut residents need know that crime is much, much lower in Connecticut than in almost any other state in America,” said Sens. Martin Looney and Bob Duff, two of the legislature’s top Democrats, in a statement.

“Today’s report is a testament to the good work of our state and local police departments and to the excellent quality of life that we all enjoy here in Connecticut,” they said, referencing the FBI’s crime database, which includes statistics from the state.

This story was originally published by the Connecticut Mirror.

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