New gun violence committee meets as lawmakers scramble for solutions

Violent crime has become a big political issue this year in Connecticut, and now one group is helping state lawmakers find solutions.

News 12 Staff

Nov 5, 2021, 9:28 PM

Updated 988 days ago

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Violent crime has become a big political issue this year in Connecticut, and now one group is helping state lawmakers find solutions.
The Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Advisory Committee held its first hearing Friday. It comes amid a spike in violent crime recently, including the shooting of a grandmother and two young children sitting on a balcony in Bridgeport.
"We're in the rooms when these kids are taking their last breaths," says Aquil Crooks, of Street Safe Bridgeport.
Crooks says the organization needs more staff and more training.
"It's a combination of fear, hurt, poverty, time and boredom. And until we're ready to deal with all of those, we're going to have this same problem," he says.
Project MORE has a 95% success rate finding jobs for ex-offenders, but the organization says it can't reach most people.
"A lot of us individuals who result back to the streets - they go back to what they know," says Project MORE career specialist Latesha Nelson.
State police asked for more intervention teams at hospital emergency rooms.
"To have somebody at the hospital, from the community, who's working with the family, who's trying to calm everyone down, who's trying to lower emotions," says Brian Foley, of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services.
At the State Capitol, violent crime has emerged as a hot button topic - and a likely campaign issue in next year’s race for governor.
Republicans are urging Gov. Ned Lamont to call a special legislative session on juvenile crime, and are pushing a package of criminal justice changes called A Safer Connecticut that make it easier to try teens as adults and roll back parts of last year’s police accountability law.
Democrats say crime has spiked nationwide due to the pandemic, not lax state laws. Many are wary of reversing a decade of criminal justice reforms.
On Friday, New Haven’s assistant police chief said the pandemic suspended many critical outreach programs, leading to a 700% violent crime increase last winter. But he said since those programs resumed this fall, crime has stabilized.
The committee will be holding a public hearing via Zoom on Nov. 17 and is looking to hear from members of the public, grassroots organizations, community-based organizations and local violence prevention activists. They will be seeking recommendations on how to reduce community and gun-related violence.
All testimonials are limited to a maximum of three minutes. Those interested in testifying should pre-register by contacting Dr. Pina Violano (http://pina.violano@cga.ct.gov) by Nov. 12. A Zoom link will be sent out upon registration.
Individuals who are unable to attend the public hearing and are interested in submitting written testimony can do so by providing a PDF document to Violano by 5 p.m. Nov. 12.


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