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01/18/2024 01:56 PM

North Haven Police Meet with State Lawmakers to Discuss Crime and Accountability


A public safety forum featuring local and state officials was held at the North Haven Recreation Center on Jan. 10. The importance of ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions and that local police are fully supported in that mission was at the forefront of the forum.

State Senator Paul Cicarella, State Representative Dave Yaccarino, North Haven First Selectman Mike Freda, and officials of the North Haven Police Department (NHPD) heard from concerned residents about an uptick in local crime that has been observed across the state. Police outlined legislative impediments that they face to pursue and arrest criminals, while lawmakers discussed what is being done at the state and local level to support police and deter crime. The panel then listened to the concerns and ideas of residents during a question-and-answer session.

NHPD Chief Kevin Glenn said laws that have been changed by state lawmakers in previous years have “made things a little more difficult for not only police, but more importantly, were difficult for victims of the crime that we keep seeing every day and increasing.”

Police departments in North Haven and across the state have witnessed an uptick in crimes that include “vehicle burglaries or unlawful entries into vehicles, stolen cars, residential burglaries where perpetrators break into garages,” and other forms of robbery, according to Glenn.

These kinds of offenses and the concerns surrounding them had been vocalized by North Haven residents in previous meetings between the community and authorities, the former of which has requested additional officers to the NHPD.

In response, Glenn said he is asking that four more officers be budgeted in the NHPD’s next fiscal year budget. That could prove helpful, especially with the overnight hours, “where a lot of this crime is occurring with the vehicle burglaries, the stolen cars, from our midnight to 8 o'clock shift,” he said.

Rep. Yaccarino said that he sees this as a helpful tactic and is “working with the First Selectman to do what we can as of now” to add more patrol officers to between 1 and 5 a.m.

A budget request will also ask for the addition of a new member of the NHPD’s Investigative Services Division with a goal of expending fewer resources and preemptively deterring crimes before they occur. Glenn said that this and the four additional officers should be up for referendum next to the 2024 -’25 budget.

Sen. Cicarella said that he hears from worried North Haven residents every day on “the frequency and gall of the criminals committing these blatant crimes,” that have included “more than 45 car break-ins in the span of a week last October, multiple auto thefts,” and a street takeover that occurred when 1,500 cars completely shut down Universal Drive on Dec. 9.

Glenn said that supporting police departments like North Haven’s, partly through the addition of personnel, is the narrative “coming from not only victims of crime, but people who are in fear of crime,” adding that the latter group is “just as important.”

“One person gets their car stolen on the street, everybody on the street is afraid of that crime because they're aware of it,” said Glenn.

One of the impediments that law enforcement is facing across the state are Clean Slate laws “which erase criminal records for some serious offenders and the difficulty of obtaining an arrest warrant,“ said Yaccarino. This is frequently the case for juvenile offenders, who are often the subjects who commit these types of aformentioned crimes.

“Moreover, car theft is often a juvenile issue, resulting in a ticket at most, we have to change this,” added Yaccarino.

Due to the light penalties that offenders often face, North Haven lawmakers and Glenn have seen “not much fear of repercussions” by offenders, whose crimes are becoming more “brazen” and violent, said Glenn.

“The crimes are not only becoming more and more routine…but also the crimes are more brazen now,” he said. “There used to be just the unlocked car doors and taking some change….Now, they’re smashing windows and stealing cars or going in garages and stealing cars. There just seems to be not much fear of repercussions.”

Burglaries from cars and stores are being reported several times a day on Universal Drive and Washington Avenue, with one of the most recent being an armed robbery at the Citgo at 490 Washington Avenue on Jan. 14. Still, there is a perception of people being able to easily get away with such crimes.

Although North Haven stills ranks as one of the safest communities in Connecticut, Yaccarino said that “residents are fed up with the uptick of what is becoming a cycle of recidivism among mostly juvenile offenders.”

At the local level, the NHPD is determined to tackle these “serial crimes” through shared resources and intelligence with other regional departments, said Glenn.

“In New Haven County, there's a really good intelligence sharing system in place,” he said. “So, whether it happens in Guilford, West Haven, North Haven, Meriden—our investigators are aware of what the suspects look like through video or pictures and [modes of operations of perpetrators] and different trends that are going on.”

The regional violent crime task force—consisting officers from New Haven, Meriden, and East Haven—is another method for intel sharing that serves as “a multiplier for manpower” in the event of a crime involving a firearm, said Glenn. Although state grant funding for these task forces has dried up and support will now have to come from North Haven taxpayers, Glenn said the cost is more than worth the impact that it can have.

“We've seen so much progress with this collaboration that we're going to commit to it,” said Glenn.

Since his first term in Hartford, Sen. Cicarella has introduced and supported proposals to improve the conditions that have led to increasing crime in Connecticut, citing, “quality education, stable and secure housing, and meaningful employment opportunities.” Cicarella has also supported measures to “restore the tools that law enforcement previously had at their disposal to identify, arrest, and prosecute criminals,” and will continue to do so.

“We must continue to support our police, and I thank North Haven Police and all law enforcement for what they do,” Cicarella said.