For can­di­dates, fight­ing crime can pay

Greenwich Time (Sunday) - - OPINION -

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.

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