Op-ed: Stamford bucks trend by cutting crime in year of turmoil

Op-ed: Stamford bucks trend by cutting crime in year of turmoil

Former Stamford Times editor and now managing editor of the magazine The Next American City, Pooja Shah weighs in on Stamford’s success fighting crime.

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

Stamford was recently ranked as the third safest city in the country, according to the FBI’s preliminary crime statistics for the first half of 2007. Statistics also show that Stamford dropped almost 25 percent in the number of violent crimes, after six years in a row of steady increases. Stamford is on pace to be celebrating the safest year since 2003.

While this is undoubtedly an accomplishment for Stamford, it is also noteworthy that a city the size of Stamford has managed to buck the trend facing similar-sized cities across the country including Richmond, Calif. and Dayton, Ohio. In recent years, the country has been facing a unique dual trend where property and violent crime remain flat or even slightly decline in some cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, while they increase in other cities like Detroit and St. Louis.

What is immediately evident in the face of his divide is that the universal band-aid approaches of the past – such as higher incarceration rates – have become less and less effective. But the need to invest in alternative and innovative solutions comes at a time when cities are seeing their federal resources redirected into Homeland Security for the War on Terror and are left fumbling to combat everyday street crime. The national focus on the Iraq war, in large part, diverted federal attention from urban crime. In the few months that the country has been at war, more money was spent overseas than was spent in ten years of providing federal support to law enforcement across the country. However, the problem is that there is no guarantee that the government would spend that money on cities if they didn’t spend it on Iraq.

The problem is two-fold. On the one hand, we have a short attention span. Politicians vying for re-election find it hard to invest in programs that don’t have short term results – so it easier to commit to an omnipresent threat of terrorism than to commit to the localized, entrenched reality of urban crime that may or may not see results within their four-year term. On the other hand, there is not enough money being invested into research to find ways that can directly address why crime is rising in specific cities and how to combat it.

Yet, Stamford has paved the way by showing that it can cut crime in a year of extreme turmoil and budget cuts facing the police department.

The need to come up with creative alternatives to fight crime, in the face of tight budgets, has been a necessity in cities across the country. Some cities, like Phoenix, have tried to piggyback off of their federal counterparts. The city has forged partnerships between the police department and the local federal bureaus such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to share databases and provide support when needed. On the other hand, other cities like Chicago have implemented the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) relying on community partnerships to monitor the streets, provide additional eyes and ears in the neighborhoods and develop a collaborative trust between the protected and the protecting. Would such a strategy work in Stamford?

Stamford has long prided its policing on the face-to-face approach of having patrol officers on the streets, coupled with resource officers in the schools. However, with a $1 million budget cut by the board of finance to Mayor Malloy’s proposed police budget of $41.7 million, the Stamford police department was faced to start making changes to the patrol units, investigative bureaus and school resource officers. Police Chief Larrabee gradually began making those changes beginningin April 2007. It will be interesting to see how the results of the second half of 2007 compare to the first half, and whether Stamford can continue to manage to cut down crime despite the police chief’s cuts.

Former Stamford Times staff writer and editor, Pooja Shah is writing in her role as managing editor of The Next American City based in Philadelphia, americancity.org.

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 651 other sustainers such as:

  • Anonymous at $10/Month
  • Andrew in Philadelphia, PA at $5/Month
  • Paula at $5/Month

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $10 or $5/Month

    Next City notebook

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    The 21 Best Solutions of 2021 special edition magazine

  • Donate $40 or $10/Month

    Brave New Home by Diana Lind