Vote 2022: New statistics show crime dropping, but do voters feel safer?
Republicans have made crime a big issue in the race for governor, but Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont got some good news on Monday. The 2021 Crime in Connecticut report shows most offenses dropped in Connecticut, with the exception of murder and rape.
In 2020, violent car thefts spiked, as well as many other crimes – a problem reflected nationwide. Lamont’s opponent, Bob Stefanowski, has made public safety a central campaign issue.
“Rising crime … that’s the Lamont Record,” says one Stefanowski ad.
So Monday, Lamont was eager to show off the latest drop in crime.
"These numbers show a very positive trend,” he said at a news conference with state police leaders.
According to the new report, robberies dropped 6%, stolen cars were down 10%, and there were 16% fewer aggravated assaults. Lamont accused Republicans of "fear mongering."
"I think that was incredibly unfair to police forces across the country, and what a difference they're making,” said Lamont.
The news isn't all positive. Murders and intentional manslaughter were up 2%, with three additional victims statewide. There was also a stunning 23% jump in reported rapes, but domestic violence groups believe the statistic is misleading.
"I don't think it's something that's gone hugely up or down. I think it's been pretty static,” said Beth Hamilton, executive director of the Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
Hamilton attributes the spike to 2020's rape figures being under-reported due to COVID, something her group’s own call logs bear out.
"We certainly talked to survivors who thought, 'The worst place I could go right now is the hospital,’” Hamilton said, “where many survivors would go to have evidence collection."
Hamilton also noted domestic violence courts were not fully functioning during the pandemic peak.
Stefanowski’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but Republican legislative leaders noted that crime figures are still higher than before the pandemic.
"Far too many families do not feel safe in Connecticut today, and violence and crime remain a crisis in communities across our state,” state Senate GOP leaders Kevin Kelly and Paul Formica wrote in a statement. “More people are speeding on our roads, traffic fatalities have increased, there were over 1,500 more car thefts in 2021 than in 2019, and police recruitment is a major issue.”
They also noted that the rate of unsolved cases is up.
The new report comes weeks before the election, but state police insist the timing isn't political. The Department Emergency Services and Public Protection commissioner said he was awaiting more detailed data from the FBI.
"I've already had [the statistics] for a month,” said James Rovella. “The FBI said they were going to give us some data product last week; they said they're going to release this week. It's a matter of how long you want to wait."
The numbers may be dropping, but the question remains – do voters feel safer?