(The Center Square) – Connecticut Republicans are currently stringing together plans to address what they see as an increase violent crime in the state, their party's Senate leader said in a radio interview.
Speaking to WICC600, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said the party is working on a plan entitled “A Better Way to a Safer Connecticut” that will address juvenile justice and the recent spike in violent crime numbers and create safer neighborhoods.
The plan, according to Senate Republicans, calls for justice reforms to improve the response to crime, supports law enforcement while removing barriers to intervention services, and serves to address the causes of crime and issues relating to trauma, education, housing and jobs.
“First and foremost, once we saw this uptick in crime, we took to the streets,” Kelly said during the interview. “We talked to prosecutors, public defenders, social workers, nonprofits, and community activists. What we need done is we need to address the current rise in crimes, but address building blocks so kids have alternatives to a life of crime.”
Kelly said Republicans looked at the criminal justice system, and saw that when someone gets arrested, they need to “get into court the next day.”
“Many times, youth are left in the youthful offender docket, and there are not as many services and supports as they would have in adult court,” Kelly said. “We want to utilize adult court to provide services to correct behavior.”
Kelly said the objective of the plan is not to brand juveniles as “a hardened criminal for life,” but to “provide them an opportunity to get more and better services.”
The plan, Kelly said, would work to ensure retaliatory crimes are not occurring, using social workers to deal with trauma and truancy to victims of crime, and making neighborhoods safe.
Kelly said getting offenders into court the next day after they are arrested is a key aspect of preventing crime.
“They are arrested and getting back on the street and not getting before a judge for a month,” Kelly said. “They are engaging in the same behavior because they don’t have the same supports in their life. … When they get arrested, get them before a judge and get them connected with services the state can provide. We also need to evaluate state services to make sure those get better.”
Kelly said during the interview that 16% of the state’s population lives in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Waterbury, but “one-third of all crime happens in those communities.”
“It deserves a response,” Kelly said. “You can’t sit back and say that is OK because it is in that neighborhood. No, it is not OK.”
Kelly said the state has seen a 61% increase in murders in Hartford, while there has been a 42% increase in car thefts in the state, and a 122% increase in shots fired in New Haven.
“That’s 245 gunshots alone in New Haven,” Kelly said. “I don’t care that [Connecticut is] fourth-safest in the country. That is 245 bullets fired.”
Kelly said Senate Republicans will be pushing legislation in February 2022 on the matter.
“We were pretty clear and vocal we needed to do this, but it fell on deaf ears,” Kelly said. “Whether or not it has any resonance between now and February … we don’t know because we don’t have the votes. We need more Republicans and like-minded individuals in the General Assembly that would think this way that the public safety and safety and security of our neighborhoods is important to get this on the agenda.”
The plan also addresses supporting police and safer communities through law enforcement recruitment initiatives, targeting modifications to laws that will allow law enforcement to better do its jobs, and expanding explorer programs to build better relations between youth and law enforcement officials.