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New London - Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced Tuesday that recorded crimes in the city were almost 13 percent lower in 2012 than in 2011, when crime was at a 10-year high.
In a news release, Finizio touted a recently introduced, targeted crime-enforcement strategy as the reason why.
The statistics, prepared last week by Officer Carl Brisson-Lopez, show a 10-year high of 7,841 recorded crimes in 2011, and a decline of 1,002 recorded crimes in 2012. A release from the mayor's office said "part 1 crimes," which mayoral assistant Zak Leavy described as "the most serious offenses," dropped 3 percent from 2011 to 2012. Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard said these offenses, also known as index crimes, include murder, aggravated assault, rape, arson, robbery, burglary and auto theft.
"I believe this data demonstrates that the policies initiated in the police department by this administration, along with the reorganization of the department's leadership, are having a positive effect on reducing major crimes in our city," Finizio said in the release. "I want to thank all the members of our department for their hard work in doing what is clearly a difficult and dangerous job. I appreciate their service to New London."
The 6,839 crimes reported in 2012 was the lowest number since 2009, when 6,911 offenses were reported, according to city statistics.
Todd Lynch, police union president, applauded his fellow officers' work in 2012, which he called a "tumultuous year" within the department. Ten officers were threatened with layoffs in May and the city shrank its patrol division and its police department budget, Lynch said, all while officers police a "dangerous city."
"I think the men and women deserve some credit because they're out there, we're doing more with less, with budget cuts and less officers," Lynch said Tuesday. "They're still doing their jobs, patrolling neighborhoods and businesses and doing the best they can."
The numbers of most crimes dropped in 2012, including a 45 percent drop in larceny, a 63 percent decline in drug violations, and a 48 percent drop in sexual offenses, including rape.
The decrease in drug violations is somewhat misleading, Lynch cautioned. Small amounts of marijuana were decriminalized last year, shrinking the number of crimes, he said. Departmental trends have leaned toward less aggressive drug enforcement as well, Lynch said, adding to the overall decline in drug crimes. The city also sold one of its drug-sniffing dogs, Kilo, in February.
"The amount of drugs on the streets hasn't decreased, our enforcement has decreased," Lynch said. "It takes initiative, you have to go after these people. Yet, if officers that are (going after drug offenders) are targeted (by police administration) and told that this type of enforcement is not wanted, then they're not going to do it."
Robbery saw a small increase, from 42 to 47 incidences, but aggravated assaults jumped significantly, from 188 in 2011, to 229 in 2012. Other increases were seen in DUIs, threatening and larceny from buildings.
Reichard said the city had three murders in 2012, a 33 percent drop from 2011. The city has not had more than four murders in a single year since 1993, when there were eight, according to FBI statistics.
The release says a departmental change in June, which increased police coverage in certain targeted areas throughout the city, may have been a contributing factor in the reduction of overall crime.
"The dedication and hard work of police officers in these locations has provided a proactive approach to crime reduction within the neighborhoods of our city," Reichard said. "The new deployment has given the agency the ability to better manage the resources and concentrate our efforts on areas in the city where violence has been routinely reported to police."
Day Staff Writer Kathleen Edgecomb contributed to this report.