Police Chief Daryl Roberts' declaration that Hartford has become toxic in its level of incivility sparked anger, questions and introspection Thursday as leaders and residents wondered if the capital city has reached some sort of tipping point.
While some said the recent episodes of violence that have sparked attention are staggering, others noted that violence has long been a part of the city's fabric. Fingers were pointed at city hall, with critics accusing Mayor Eddie A. Perez of concentrating on selling the city and talking about dropping crime rates rather than owning up to its real problems. Perez pledged Thursday to solve the recent crimes, which he called "horrific," and said he believes that at its core Hartford's population is caring, not callous.
One leader, J. Stan McCauley, a former mayoral candidate and cable access television personality, likened Hartford to an alcoholic, whose first step toward recovery should be to acknowledge a problem.
"Tell people the truth," McCauley said, "and then they have an easier time adjusting to it. The city is out of control. There is no law. There is no consequence for people's actions.
"The whole attitude of 'Me first and to heck with my neighbor' has become the status quo here, and it is a serious, serious problem."
SHOW OF FORCE
Three specific events have prompted the criticism and hand-wringing:
On Friday afternoon, a hit-and-run accident that was caught on tape left Angel Arce Torres, 78, paralyzed, lying in the middle of Park Street under full view of passing motorists and onlookers.
Monday morning, a savage beating and robbery sent former Deputy Mayor Nicholas Carbone to the hospital with severe injuries.
And Wednesday, police discovered the badly decomposed body of a man in
the basement of a recently foreclosed home.
On Thursday, Torres was still in critical condition at Hartford Hospital, while Carbone was in fair and stable condition.
Roberts reacted with anger to the incidents Wednesday, saying the acts were inhumane, that the city had lost its "moral compass" and had a "toxic relationship with ourselves."
Perez reacted Thursday with what he described as a show of solidarity, holding a press conference and calling for help from citizens to solve the crimes that had sparked the debate. Standing with city council leadership, the superintendent of schools, the chief, members of the business community, clergy and one of the victim's relatives, Perez said he wanted to send a clear message to criminals.
"We are not going to let anybody take away the progress we have made to make Hartford a safe city," Perez said. "Let this message be clear. If you commit a crime in the city of Hartford, you will be arrested and justice will be done."
Meanwhile, Gov. M. Jodi Rell sent her sympathies to the families and said, "These incidents and others ... shock our state to the core."
Perez said Thursday that he has initiated conversations with Rell about getting law enforcement help from the state this summer while the city trains new police recruits to bolster its ranks.
Angel Arce, Torres' son, attended the mayor's press conference, saying he refused to watch the video of his father being hit. Through tears, he asked for help in getting justice for his father.
Calixto Torres, president of the city council and chairman of its public safety committee, and who is no relation to the victim, said Thursday that the news reports and tape of the hit-and-run were misleading.
CITY'S GLARING REFLECTION: Police Chief's Harsh Words Spark Examination Of Hartford's Heart, Soul And Character
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