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Mayor Bronin, Residents Talk Public Safety at Town Hall

February 26, 2016

ARTFORD — Mayor Luke Bronin, speaking at a town hall meeting about public safety Thursday night, urged the group of residents to "be ambassadors" for Hartford.

"The perception beyond Hartford about crime is so out of whack, we all have the obligation to do something about it," Bronin said inside the Hartford Public High School auditorium. "No matter where you go, tell people why you've stayed in Hartford, what it's really like in the city."

Bronin held the event, the latest in a series of what he called "honest conversations," to discuss public safety in the city. Flanked by Hartford Police Chief James Rovella and Fire Department Chief Reginald Freeman, the mayor fielded questions and addressed concerns from residents worried about what's going on in their city's streets.

The few attendees who spoke — about 50 residents attended — focused on issues both internal and external to the police department. Some, like Michelle Jones, discussed their frustration at criminals invading their neighborhoods.

Jones told a story of watching one drug dealer make possibly more than 20 transactions over a six-hour span.

Other residents, like Alyssa Peterson, asked the mayor about properly funding the police department, making sure its tightening pool of resources is used efficiently.

In responding to those comments, Bronin stressed the importance of modernizing the police force, referring to new technology inside the Real Time Crime and Data Intelligence Center that the department debuted Wednesday.

And he touched on the department's "staffing crisis" — the number of officers is "hovering around 380," he said, a number that may drop to even more critical levels with retirements.

Solving that is complex, he said, but the department is working toward a solution through accelerating police academy classes and developing relationships with young citizens through the cadet program.

He also made a major announcement with the news that the police department's weekly CompStat meetings — when administrators meet to review crime statistics and identify trends — will be open to the public. Exact details on the logistics of the meetings are still be worked out, Bronin said after the town hall, but he's committed to opening them up as soon as possible."To me, the value of that is that residents of the city have information the officers may not have," he said. "We need insight from people in the city." Monique Biggs agreed.

Earlier this week, she had a close call on her block in the North End — gunfire near her home that had her diving for safety on her front porch.

She was grateful for how fast officers responded, thanks in part to the department's ShotSpotter technology. And she stressed the importance of providing information, as she did that night.

"While we have these budget cuts, we have to encourage youths that if they see something, they need to say something," she said. "No matter what, we need to also police ourselves."

Courant Community Hartford Town Hall