By Sen. Paul Cicarella
Some recent, actual, headlines in here in Connecticut:
Security officer shot during shoplifting attempt at Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester
Delivery driver dragged 500 feet during carjacking in Wallingford
Carjackers punched, pistol whipped 70-year-old man at gas station in Orange
Do you feel safe? While you are pumping gas in Wallingford, or North Haven? Do you think twice in your own neighborhood, or anywhere else across our district or state?
The reality is that law-abiding citizens in Connecticut do not feel safe. Notice our towns that I named above, which I proudly represent. I did not name these towns at random. These towns, and others, are examples of real-life incidents in our own backyards: parking lot car thefts in broad daylight, and a homeowner fired upon while attempting to prevent a thief from sawing-off his car’s catalytic converter.
These incidents happened over the past year. Years ago, simply one crime of this nature would be out of the ordinary. Now, unfortunately, they are commonplace. When you turn on the morning news, there seem to be daily headlines of such crimes in our state.
This is Connecticut and not the “Wild West.” In the case of the Manchester shooting, a security guard was simply doing his job to prevent a theft. If there were stronger penalties for stealing, or some consequences, then perhaps a public shooting in broad daylight would not have happened. Instead, we are living in a state where criminals likely believe that their acts are acceptable in today’s environment.
Closer to home, I personally know victims of this rampant crime. In North Haven, a thief stole a pregnant woman’s car in the BJ’s parking lot. The thief and accomplices then went on to commit several additional crimes using her stolen vehicle. Do you think this mother will ever feel safe while pumping gas? I don’t think so.
Another friend, while driving during the day, observed a young person doing “donuts” in another vehicle in the middle of a busy road. This young person likely knew that there were no repercussions for this reckless and illegal act. If a person knows that there are no consequences for an illegal act, large or small, then why stop?
The simple fact is that public safety is a huge problem in Connecticut that must be addressed now. The second part of the equation is that it is outrageously expensive to live here. That, too, must be addressed. These two conditions in our state are not entirely mutually exclusive.
Two years following the enactment of the Police Accountability law, we cannot say that there is a safer Connecticut. The headlines speak for themselves; these are facts. The law is not working very well.
After two years, we are in the first stages of fully understanding this law’s consequences. If these clearly detrimental consequences are not addressed, things will continue to get worse. This statement is not a scare tactic or fear mongering. Again, look at the headlines. There is nothing political about crime. It happens to everyone, and thieves do not ask for political affiliation before stealing a pregnant woman’s car, or pistol whipping a 70-year-old man.
Our local law enforcement continue to do the best they can with these restrictive parameters. As a former law enforcement professional, I know that these men and women need the tools to do their job: there must be consequences for an offender after being taken into custody. Law enforcement have seen the effects of these changes to the law, and now the public sees them as well.
What is the solution? A year ago, my Republican colleagues and I offered a comprehensive plan to address crime, along with the underlying causes for why a young person chooses this path. Opportunity for a successful career path was one such underlying cause. Revisiting the idea of a state that’s affordable to live in, all young people should have the chance to find a well-paying and rewarding career.
When we came to the table with this proposal, by and large, our plan was quickly dismissed by the Majority—aside from some minor elements.
Nonetheless, most colleagues on both sides of the aisle would agree with me that there is a problem. Unfortunately, when the time comes to cast a vote, the common-sense measures are not the ones that advance.
How does this circumstance change? How do we restore safety in our community? I encourage everyone to pay attention to all lawmakers’ actions in Hartford, and not their words. A “SaferCT” is achievable and I will continue to advocate for policies that put the safety of our families first.
Visit SaferCT.com for more information on A Better Way to a Safer Connecticut.
Sen. Paul Cicarella represents Connecticut’s 34th Senate District that includes the towns of Durham, East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford.