To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Raiders of the Lost Park

Murdering time yesterday in New Haven allowed me to reacquaint myself with the city and how far it's come in the 12 years since I first moved there. Temple Street was barely recognizable to me. In 1995, the three blocks between Chapel and Route 34 were nothing but empty storefronts and hypodermic needles in the gutters. Yesterday it glittered with bars and restaurants. A cineplex has taken over the deserted meeting hall of the vaguely sinister White Eagle Club. And of course now there is also the Omni Hotel.

But appearances aside, New Haven is still the same city I knew and detested in the mid-90s, an urbanscape constructed on the borderland of perpetual civic breakdown:

People don’t feel safe in the daytime anymore, said East Rock alderman Roland Lemar, due to recent brazen crimes. Two people were mugged in broad daylight in mid-May, including one woman who was beaten up. There have also been nighttime muggings by gun-toting teens; a pair of Yale English grad students were held up at gunpoint on Edwards Street.

Source (second item).

Mrs. Kuhl lived on Edwards; I lived a few blocks away. East Rock is a nice, well-kempt residential area full of enormous Victorian and early 20th-century homes, many subdivided into apartments for the students. It's difficult to imagine it as a place of violent street crime, even though such things happened when we lived there too. I would blame DeStefano but he's only been in office 13 years. Don't rush the man!

Recently the police force numbered as many as 419, but they’re now down to the 370s, mostly due to retirements, explained Assistant Chief Herman Badger. They’d like to be up in the 450s, but the recruitment drives have had such a poor turnout that New Haven police won’t be able to fill enough positions to restore the ranks to 419. The current class of police recruits is only 29 strong—they’ll graduate in September.

All of this by way of explaining what's happening across town in Edgewood:

Members of a politically influential yeshiva led by Rabbi Daniel Greer -- who have spent more than a decade rebuilding their stretch of Edgewood -- have organized an armed citizens patrol.

This is already all over the MSM which, as usual, is light on background. The yeshiva is an island in a poor, predominantly black ghetto. While the rabbis and black leaders occasionally stage a photo op together and mumble something about brotherly love, really they just hate each other. The attack on Rabbi Dov Greer, which apparently precipitated the formation of the Edgewood Park Defense Patrol, was outrageous but probably not random.

The group takes its name from nearby Edgewood Park, a series of rolling, lightly wooded hills perfect for every variety of crime. Police don't patrol it because, like the rest of the citizenry, they're terrified of going inside. Yet now it seems that a bunch of whiskered Torah-readers have the cojones to do what New Haven's crookedest cannot. G-d bless 'em!

Curtis Sliwa is supposed to meet with the Patrol today. Yesterday, while waiting for my big break, I compared the Edgewood Patrol to the Guardian Angels and the teen behind me didn't know who or what I was talking about. Boy, did I feel my age.

UPDATE: Crime in New Haven IS down from the notorious heights of the early 90s. But to focus on homicides a moment, there were 24 murders in New Haven in 2006, comparable to those in the mid-90s (see these crime stats). If we assume a population of 124,512 (according to the 2003 estimate of the US Census) -- and if I've done my math right -- that puts the city's 2006 homicide rate at 19.275 per 100,000 people. According to the FBI, the national rate in 2005 was 5.6 per 100,000.

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