Fasano and Stefanowski (opinion): CT is tired of crime

The people of Connecticut are tired. They are weary from waiting in line for hours and hours during the holidays just to get a simple COVID test. They are weary from paying higher and higher prices on everything from gassing up their cars to paying monthly utility bills. And they are weary from all-too-common acts of violence committed in neighborhoods across the state.

A mere two hours into the new year, a 16-year-old girl was shot in New Haven — a city that ended 2021 as its most violent year in a decade. Fortunately, the girl is now in stable condition. Crime continues to be a major problem throughout the state and especially in our cities. And it will continue this way unless Democratic leaders in state government have the courage to try something different.

Democratic leaders have become increasingly creative in their arguments as to why the rampant crime we see each day is really not a problem at all. Some point to FBI statistics showing that for our state as a whole, crime is not up. Others admit that crime is rising but say we really shouldn’t worry because it’s up more in other parts of the country — as if the victims of violent crime in our own backyard are somehow comforted that New York City is even more dangerous than New Haven.

Of course, statistics don't tell the whole story; they never do. Notice, for instance, how Democratic leaders ignore the skyrocketing violent crime in our cities. Drive-by shootings in Bridgeport, executions in Waterbury, armed carjackings in New Haven. We see it almost every single night on the news.

Oddly enough, these heinous crimes are concentrated in the very communities that Democrats claim to prioritize. Democrats count on places like Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury as their bases of power. They rely on our cities to provide the votes for their reelection. Yet they look the other way when the people who faithfully cast the votes are living in danger.

Democrats speak of change and opportunity, but their policies keep the status quo and despair. They want to convince the public that the violent crimes we hear and read about every day aren’t happening, because an honest assessment of the outcomes would expose their criminal justice reforms as an abject failure.

Their dismissive tone is telling. They bemoan the fact that Connecticut’s largest cities remain “underserved,” while failing to admit that they have had control of our largest cities and state government for decades. If our large cities remain underserved after all these years, Democratic leaders have only themselves to blame.

And while state leaders continue to posture, the people of Connecticut suffer. Last year, a 14-year-old boy was executed near Waterbury. In Bridgeport, two children, ages 3 and 7, and their grandmother were wounded in a drive-by shooting in broad daylight. In Hartford, a 3-year-old was shot dead, and a woman cooking dinner for her son was killed by stray bullets.

Think of the coarsening effect that incidents like these have on a young mind. Think about the 7-year-old girl in Bridgeport who is so traumatized after getting hit by shrapnel while playing on her own back porch that she is afraid to return in school. Are we supposed to shrug our shoulders and ignore all of this for the sake of statistics?

It’s time to admit that the Democrats’ approach to public safety has failed — and the Police Accountability Bill that Gov. Lamont signed into law makes it even worse. The bill limited qualified immunity for police officers, putting their homes and other personal assets at risk for any work-related incidents.

Ask any officers on the street, and they will tell you that this law has made it harder to do their job of keeping families safe. Police are now forced to be reactive instead of proactive for fear of losing their jobs or becoming targets of the media if something goes wrong. This can have harsh consequences, such as less crime prevention and more innocent people hurt.

We also need more proactive solutions and accountability for juvenile crime. Victims, families, local leaders, community police and even parents of juveniles are all begging for action, yet their cries have gone unanswered

The mother of a 13-year-old victim whose accused killer was only 14 called for stricter juvenile crime laws. “They need to go to the drawing board, and they need to address this. They need to look into charging these juveniles appropriately,” she said.

We can and must do better as a state. We need to hold any police officer who abuses his authority accountable to the full extent of the law. But fixing issues in law enforcement does not mean ignoring crime. Proactive and community policing will prevent crime. Pretending crime is not a problem won’t save lives. It will only result in more deaths.

Republicans have put forth several common-sense proposals to reduce crime and make it easier for law enforcement to keep residents safe. To date, Gov. Lamont has been unwilling to consider these suggestions.

Safety is a fundamental right we all deserve from our government. The effects that these types of violent crimes have on victims and their families are as obvious as they are tragic.

A new year presents a fresh opportunity to put politics aside and admit what Connecticut residents already know — we are not as safe as we used to be. Now is the time to take proactive measures to address Connecticut’s rising crime — before more innocent people are hurt.

Len Fasano represented the communities of Durham, East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford in the state Senate from 2003 to 2020 and was leader of the Senate Republican caucus from 2014 to 2020. Fasano is now a legislative commissioner in the state Legislature. Bob Stefanowski was the 2018 Republican candidate for governor of Connecticut.