Pubdate: Sun, 08 Jul 2001
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2001 The Hartford Courant
Author: Tom Condon


Garden Street was quiet Friday morning. A guy was out washing his car, a 
woman hurried to work, the crossing guard waited for kids on their way to 
summer school. Somehow, these people have got to own the street in the 
evening and at night.

On Wednesday, a 7-year-old girl named Takira Gaston was shot in the face 
and severely wounded on Garden Street by a stray bullet that was probably 
fired by some moron drug dealer.

This is an outrage on its own terms. It also bodes ill for Greater 
Hartford's efforts to remake itself. Make no mistake, this isn't just 
Hartford's problem. The state is risking three-quarters of a billion 
dollars on a convention center and other amenities to make Hartford the 
vibrant center of the Capitol region.

But this stuff isn't going to work if the city has a reputation as a 
drug-infested rathole. People won't come. There are good things going on, 
but the recent upsurge in shootings - 415 shots fired this year - and 
violent crime puts the gains at risk.

So, what to do. Police Chief Bruce Marquis said the troops will be out, 
visible, making more stops for minor offenses such as loitering and 

This is the "New York strategy," employed so effectively by police chief 
William Bratton. Contradicting conventional wisdom that cops should 
concentrate on major crimes, Bratton targeted subway turnstile jumpers, 
"squeegee men" and brown-bag drunks.

It turned out that one in 10 subway jumpers was wanted for felony and that 
many were carrying guns. Stopping the little crimes helped to stop the big 
ones. From 1993 to 1997, homicides dropped 70 percent and major felonies 
dropped 46 percent. New York became livable again.

That's what Hartford needs. In addition to loitering and trespassing busts, 
the department ought to be stopping every traffic violator they can find. 
As Lt. Neil Dryfe put it, the drug dealers have to believe that anytime 
they go out, a Hartford police officer is going to visit with them.

Also, track the guns. Handguns are all over the city. Kids run around with 
them. Bratton pushed hard to track each gun and arrest the supplier. That 
made a difference.

City building officials ought to come down hard on code violations that are 
causing blight. In their "broken window" theory, James Q. Wilson and George 
Kelling convincingly demonstrate a connection between a deteriorating 
physical environment and the breakdown in order that leads to crime.

Also, let's make drug treatment available on demand. Drug dealers stay in 
business because there's a continuing supply of addicts. Each addict in 
recovery reduces the customer base.

Federal authorities ought to begin undercover work immediately. Anecdotal 
evidence suggests some of the troublemakers are gang members getting out of 
jail. The time to get them is when they're on probation.

Let's get on this.
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