HARTFORD – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy outlined a new crime prevention strategy Thursday that would put more police officers on the street – and take another option to mitigate major state tax hikes away from Malloy.
With the capital city reeling from a mid-morning shooting incident near Whitmore Street that led to the evacuation several homes and one school, Malloy came out to the Frog Hollow neighborhood to press for more police, tougher gun laws, a reformed bail bond system, and a modern criminal justice database.
“You’re looking at a person who wants to be an activist governor,” Malloy said during a mid-afternoon press conference outside of the city police substation, adding that crime, coupled with higher property taxes and weaker schools, is driving both residents and businesses from Connecticut’s urban centers. “We have to break this dynamic on all fronts.”
One of the chief component’s of Malloy’s plan involves putting more police officers on the street.
“Our state and municipal police forces have become increasingly understaffed,” the plan reads, adding that one priority will be to add 55 troopers to bring the state police force up to the statutory mandated level of 1,248.
But according to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, municipal leaders have been cutting funds, and in many cases staff, for police, public works and other non-education agencies for much of the past decade to preserve local school budgets as state aid dwindles.
So if Malloy hopes to see more municipal police on the street, is he prepared to rule out any cuts to state grants for non-education programs?
“I think that’s a tough proposition,” Malloy responded, acknowledging that police and other municipal services have tightened their belts to preserve funding for schools. “I don’t think we can tolerate much more of that.”
But the former mayor also wasn’t ready to take non-education grant reductions off the table as a possible option for reducing the $3.4 billion deficit projected for next fiscal year’s state budget. “As I’ve said before, nothing’s off the table and everyone’s invited to the table,” Malloy said.
James Finley, CCM’s executive director, said that the chances of communities enhancing their police forces if state aid is reduced are slim to none. “It’s going to be virtually impossible for most communities to do that,” he said. “I don’t think the math works.”
Malloy already has ruled out suspending or modifying binding arbitration laws – a move Connecticut municipal leaders asked for last year to help control the rising cost of teachers’ salaries and benefits. And state education grants are being subsidized this year by $271 million in expiring federal stimulus, another problem Malloy would have to solve, if elected.
The former mayor also has pledged to make nursing home care and private, nonprofit social service agencies – each one a $1 billion-plus component within this fiscal year’s $19.01 billion overall state budget – high priorities in his first budget.
Malloy has acknowledged that tax hikes likely will be needed to solve the budget deficit. His Republican opponent, Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, declined to comment on Malloy’s latest plan, but he has charged the Democrat with making too many spending commitments, which will ultimately lead to a massive tax hike.
Malloy has counter-charged that Foley’s pledge to eliminate what effectively amounts to the largest budget deficit in state history without increasing taxes as dishonest and unachievable.
Other components of Malloy’s crime prevention plan include:
- Updating the state’s criminal justice information system to ensure law enforcement agencies at all levels of government can easily share data electronically.
- Reverse budget and staffing cuts that have led to a backlog of cases at the state police crime lab.
- Dedicate more resources to stem high rates of recidivism among criminals guilty of gun-related offenses.
- Restore funding cuts to the state Office of Victim Advocate and reassign staff from the Judicial Branch into the office to begin a new, more intensive focus assisting victims of identity theft.
- And reforming the bail bond system to ensure bondsmen require their clients to pay the standard 7 to 10 percent of their bond, and not a reduced percentage that allows some individuals charged with dangerous crimes to quickly return to the streets.
Mayor of Stamford from 1995 through 2009, and a prosecutor before that, Malloy said the strategies “are largely informed by my experience. … As a former mayor, I fostered a real collaboration with the police department, community leaders, and other stakeholders to make Stamford a better place to live, work, raise a family and do business. As governor, I’ll do the same for Connecticut.”