For candidates, fighting crime can pay
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has known since his days as Stamford’s mayor that crime rates matter when it comes to public perception.
Malloy worked hard to develop policies that would drive down crime in Stamford in the 1990s, and the city’s fortunes rose as those figures dramatically improved. There were flashes of the dubious “Malloy Math” that has been less persuasive during his volatile eight years as governor, but there was also the undeniable reality that Stamford became a safer city, turning it into Connecticut’s beacon for developers, shoppers and homeowners.
Malloy may be guilty of a little hyperbole in pitching the latest state crime stats as the lowest since 1967 — the year of the Summer of Love — but it’s hard not to celebrate that property crime dipped 2.15 percent despite a flagging economy that could have pushed it in the other direction.
At a time when Malloy’s name seldom seems to appear without the qualifier “least popular governor,” he sounded like a man running for office when he interpreted FBI data released last week.
“Recently enacted criminal justice reforms, which were supported by experts from both side of the aisle, are showing real results,” Malloy said.
See what he did there? He pulled Republicans and Democrats together as collaborators of his criminal justice reforms.
We’ll always be a little dubious of FBI fever charts on crime, as they are merely collections of data collected from local departments. And Malloy couldn’t brag about crime rates in major cities such as Bridgeport and Hartford.
Still, the figures point to a 41-percent drop in statewide arrests for all crimes between 2009 and 2017, which happens to parallel Malloy’s time in office.
Malloy’s camp claims the prison population has dropped by more than 4,000 inmates since 2011 and could be cut in half if the trend continues.
Not surprisingly, Malloy credited his policies regarding criminal justice reform. They have not been insignificant in their breadth, with an expressed focus on second chances. The age of juvenile jurisdiction was raised; the bail system was reformed to focus less on socioeconomic status; drug laws were modernized; school districts were engaged.
Equally unsurprising is that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski is dismissive of the measures, claiming unspecific failures regarding recidivism.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont sounds like he’s on the same page as the governor, but neither would-be successor offers a vision as sophisticated as Malloy did eight years ago.
Lamont accurately refers to it as a moral issue as well as an economic one. Stefanowski, for whom all roads lead to the economy, should recognize what Malloy did back when he was a mayor. When people felt safe waiting on a corner for a car in downtown Stamford, the city would thrive. And it did.
It’s an important division between the candidates, whether they know it or not. Malloy shouldn’t be the one offering a clear strategy five weeks before Election Day.