Wilton family violence incidents rose in 2021, police say

Photo of J.D. Freda
The Wilton Police Department has released its 2021 annual Report.

The Wilton Police Department has released its 2021 annual Report.

Wilton Police Department / Contributed photo

WILTON — While emergency calls were down overall last year, arrests and family violence incidents were up from 2020, according to the police’s annual report.

Police had 12,915 calls last year, down from 13,483 in 2020. There were 142 arrests in 2021, up from 127 in 2020. This is still lower than each of the three years prior to 2020, according to the new report, which examines statistics over a five-year period dating back to 2017.

“Fortunately, our community does not routinely experience high volumes of violent crimes,” the report stated. “Nonetheless, our response to incidents of family violence remains prevalent as our officers investigated 39 such cases in 2021.”

That total is not just up from last year, but is the most in the last five years since 37 incidents were reported in 2017.

Police Capt. Rob Cipolla said family violence is defined as incidents that cause harm, physical harm or bodily injury to a member of the household or family.

While 39 of those incidents met the criteria, there were 34 other “domestic-related” incidents that Cipolla said hadn’t elevated to the definition for family violence before officers were able to intervene.

Most of the incidents reported in 2021 were filed as disorderly conduct, while 11 percent brought assault charges.

“We remain committed to holding offenders accountable and leveraging our partnership with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center to keep victims safe,” the report stated.

Crimes against people and property are both slightly down, but mostly stagnant. Crimes against people dropped from 47 in 2020 to 25 last year and property crimes remained nearly the same at just over 200 incidents each of the past two years.

The report noted that 2021 was marked by “significant changes to policing practices as a result of recently passed legislation; most notably, the decriminalization of marijuana that resulted in a substantial 71 percent decrease in marijuana-related enforcement.”

That drop still accounted for a total of 10 infractions for possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana and/or paraphernalia in town in 2021.

Cipolla said those infractions and ensuing arrests were made prior to the law going into effect July 1, 2021.

“Throughout the year, our officers engaged in training updates to address legislative and policy changes,” the report stated.

About 38 percent of last year’s 12,915 emergency calls made to police were related to motor vehicle investigations. In 2021, there were 14 stolen vehicles, which Wilton Police said last year had jumped in prevalence.

“Despite returns to pre-pandemic traffic volumes, there were only 362 crashes on public highways reported in 2021,” the report stated. “The amount is the second-lowest total of crashes in five years only behind 2020, a year notably marked by stay at home orders and overall less traffic volumes. While many variables contributed to motor vehicle crashes, our officers’ 3,768 proactive traffic enforcement contacts during 2021 is certainly a variable that deserves attribution to the low total of recorded crashes.”

While driving under the influence arrests jumped back to its 2019 total of 36, there were no fatal crashes last year.

However, Wilton Police did have its most pursuits in the past five years, with 14 in 2021 compared to 10 in 2020. The previous three years had five, six and five, respectively.

Cipolla said the total accounted for incidents of officers interrupting car thefts. He noted that, per state law, police cannot pursue unless there is an act of violence and that a great deal of liability comes from these pursuits.

The department received two complaints of bias profiling due to either race or ethnicity in 2021, but according to the department, both complaints were investigated by Internal Affairs and closed as unfounded claims.

Police also investigated and made arrests in a number of notable cases last year, including the November arrest of a man who was charged with sexual assault and risk of injury offenses, a bank robbery in September that the department worked with the Norwalk police and a family violence incident that included a firearm.