New Britain Mayor Tim O’Brien and State’s Attorney Brian Preleski joined other state and city officials today to announce the establishment of a special law enforcement team to attack a surge in gun-related violence centered in New Britain.
The Greater New Britain Shooting Task Force will bring together police officers and other law enforcement personnel from state agencies and seven municipal police departments to investigate crimes committed with firearms.
The Greater New Britain Shooting Task Force will include Inspectors from the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New Britain, the New Britain, Berlin, Bristol, Plainville, Newington and Southington police departments, the state Department of Correction, the Office of Adult Probation, the Central Connecticut State University Police Department and the Connecticut State Police.
“Public safety is our first priority. People have a fundamental right to be safe in their homes and their cities. The law-abiding people of this state should be free to walk the streets of their communities without fear that they will become the next victim,” Mayor O’Brien said.
“The Greater New Britain Shooting Task Force is an extension of the successful shooting task forces established in Hartford and New Haven in response to a heightened incidence of firearms-related violence,” State’s Attorney Preleski said.
“This task force is built on teamwork and the collaborative efforts of law enforcement at all levels of government, allowing us to achieve maximum results from the limited resources available,” said Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane.
“We are most appreciative of the contributions of all of these agencies, which have stepped up to the plate to join in this effort, which recognizes the reality that crime knows no geographical borders,” said acting New Britain Chief of Police James Wardwell.
For the first nine months of this year, nearly 150 reports of shots fired or other incidents where a firearm was displayed were reported in New Britain, including five resulting in homicides. Police report that many of the shootings are gang-related and retaliatory in nature, leading to an escalating cycle of violence.
Experience from the Hartford and New Haven shooting task forces shows that the majority shooting incidents are the work of relatively small cadre of individuals. Task force investigators focus on solving non-fatal shooting incidents with a goal of identifying and apprehending these chronic offenders.
The task force also will be available to assist in the investigation of “cold case” homicides, cases which have gone unsolved for a prolonged period of time.
State’s Attorney Preleski also has established a special “gun docket” and assigned prosecutors to work exclusively on criminal cases involving the use of firearms to assist the task force operation.
Chief State’s Attorney Kane expressed his appreciation to the General Assembly, which authorized additional funding and positions for shooting task forces and the investigation of cold cases.
The latest Hartford Shooting Task Force was established in July 2011. In its first year of operation, Hartford experienced a 42 percent reduction in murders with a handgun or shotgun, a 30 percent reduction in gun assaults, 51 fewer gunshot victims than at the same time a year earlier, 76 firearms seized and a homicide clearance rate of 67 percent.