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Mayor: Perception is not Reality as Crime in General Has Decreased in Naugatuck

Mezzo says, "We are becoming a more diverse community, but this is a positive occurrence and certainly does not correlate to an untrue perception of increased crime."

Editor's Note: The following comes from Mayor Bob Mezzo's blog:  

A regular part of local media coverage involves the inevitable reporting of various crimes that occur in the Borough.  The old Naugatuck Daily News local scene section has evolved into online police blotters that readers scan to determine if they know anyone who unfortunately found themselves on the wrong side of the law.  Inevitably, people begin to comment about about the collapse of society, particularly when the alleged offense involves strange circumstances and/or foolish behavior.  Some residents perceive that the frequency and severity of crime in Naugatuck has increased steadily in recent years.

Some reports of crime in Naugatuck are indeed quite disturbing.  One such incident involved multiple gunshots fired outside a Rubber Avenue bar that was triggered by an argument between rival gangs, one based in Waterbury and the other from Bridgeport.  Three (3) people were ultimately arrested after someone allegedly shot into a crowd of people gathering outside.  The article describing the altercation, however, was printed on January 10, 1986, in the now-defunct Naugatuck Daily News.  It involved individuals belonging to motorcycle clubs.

Page Six (6) of the Naugatuck Daily News usually included a “Local Scene” section that described various criminal incidents, arrests and car accidents.  In a manner very similar to the police blotter section in the Naugatuck Patch, the January 13, 1986, version of the Local Scene contained the following incidents:

  • A suspect arrested for third degree assault, reckless endangerment and threatening after police responded to an individual fighting with his adult sons.  The situation apparently escalated as the suspect proceeded toward his truck to obtain a loaded gun.
  • A disorderly conduct and breach of peach arrest of a suspect who “was yelling loudly," “began destroying things in the house” and “bit and kicked police officers."
  • A domestic incident which initially involved an argument between a suspect, a women and her ex-husband at a residence.  ”Both men began to leave, but (the suspect) returned later and banged on the door."  After arrest, the suspect “threatened to hang himself in the cell of police headquarters with his shirt and pants.”

Such a series of incidents would undoubtedly yield a plethora of hits and comments if posted in online stories in modern times. Many such comments, some written under anonymous screen names, would claim the end of a our community as we know it and the proverbial coming of the apocolypse. The reality, however, is that various levels of crime have existed in Naugatuck and every other community in this country for many years. While today’s offenses may seem more barbaric than those of years passed, there have been people throughout any community’s’ history that have done some really ridiculous things.

When looking at statistical data, crime in the Borough is actually down from recent years.  A page on the Connecticut Department of Public Safety website actually allows viewers to see historical data on crime statistics for every Connecticut community.  The direct link to the data does not link properly for me, but viewers can see crime statistics for Naugatuck from 1985 to 2010 by going to the “Summary Data to Query” section; scrolling down to “Naugatuck 1985-2010; and clicking “Run Query." A wealth of other statistical information can be accessed from the site.

From 1990 through 2004, total arrests in Naugatuck were never lower than one thousand one hundred thirteen (1,113 in 1996), peaking at one thousand four hundred ninety six (1,496) in 1991.  Total arrests in 2009 numbered one thousand ninety five (1,095) in the Borough.  This figure was slightly higher than the arrest figures for 2005 through 2008, which included four hundred forty three (443) on the low end (2006), and eight hundred forty four (844) on the high (2008).  Despite the impact of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, arrests in Naugatuck are still lower than at any time during the 1990 through 2004 years.

Not every statistic is encouraging.  A search of the individual year statistics indicates that total offenses increased in 2010 from 2009 levels (665 from 602).  They do not, however, indicate a significant increase over previous years as some may believe.  Certainly crime is different now than it was in years ago.  The influx of different kinds of drugs and computer technology have challenged local law enforcement efforts, and various arrest categories have fluctuated to different degrees over the years.  Crime in general, however, has decreased in recent years when compared to statistics from the mid-1990′s.

The overall decrease in crime has coincided with the rise of the Naugatuck Police force into one of the most effective departments in the state.  The level of training and expertise in modern crime fighting has never been higher than it is now. From our command staff to our newest officers, the Naugatuck Police Department protects this community in ways that few ever get to witness.  What is rarely mentioned in the media is all the crimes that are prevented through such efforts as community policing, undercover investigations and an educated force that makes its collective presence felt throughout the community.  During stressful, emergency situations like Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm, they perform at their best.  Naugatuck should be very proud of the officers that protect our streets in a professional manner.

The perception of increased crime in Naugatuck is largely driven by the availability of online and social media.  Many of the leads in electronic and print media involve the reporting of various crimes.  Ask anyone familiar with the media business and you will hear a common theme as to why: crime sells.  Detailed stories about complex tax policy, economic development demographic studies or statistical analysis of Connecticut Mastery Test results will never sell as many papers or generate as many internet hits as a headline about a local crime.  This is not simply true in Naugatuck, but most local media markets throughout the country. It is also not a criticism of the media, as it the protected right of every media outlet to print what it deems appropriate and in the best interests of its respective business.

A significant difference between today and years passed is the ability for readers to anonymously comment about the people accused of a particular crime and the details.  Incredibly, sometimes the suspects themselves and/or their family members fuel the discussion, providing convenient material for law enforcement and prosecutors.  Some comments inevitably claim that crime in Naugatuck is increasing and that the community worsens every year.  Many argue that Naugatuck is not the same place it was years ago and that the situation is hopeless.  While the statistics say otherwise, such sentiments are not unique to the Borough.  The :

“You’re one of the lucky ones who got away from the looney tunes bin called fairfield county. not sure why anyone would ever wanna stay for life here. the people are not nice to one another. the prices are high. the cops are a joke. and the kids would do better getting into highly competitive colleges if their was not so much inbred competition here.”

As someone who has lived here for forty one (41) years, I can honestly say that the kinds of incidents that get so much coverage in today’s media have always existed to varying degrees in Naugatuck.  It is frustrating and certainly embarrassing for every community that sees a mug shot of one of its own front and center in the media.  One generation often thinks it symbolizes that the next group following is different and less responsible, and the apocalypse will soon be upon us.  It is not, however, unique to any one city, town or borough.  Certainly our community has changed over time, but that has been true throughout our history.  As population has increased and the economic opportunity available during the Industrial Era faded, our police have been  forced to be more vigilant in protecting our streets from those who turn to irresponsibility and crime.

Most disturbing are the usually anonymous comments that claim that Naugatuck is the new “South Waterbury” or another “Bridgeport.”  I think many of us know that such nuanced language contains distasteful and underlying meanings that the demographics of Naugatuck are changing, and that somehow this is the cause of all crime in the Borough.  The reality is that this has been  true throughout our entire history since our first residents settled along the River.  Imagine the “outrage” of the Yankee establishment when Irish and German Catholics first began to arrive in the Borough during the 19th Century.  The wave of immigration from all parts of Europe transformed Naugatuck and allowed it to grow from a small farming community to the Rubber Capital of the world.  Different groups came at different stages, honoring their own ethnic traditions, but ultimately blending into the social fabric of Naugatuck life.  While not without struggle, each wave of new families coming to Naugatuck succeeded because of the economic opportunity that existed and the ultimate acceptance of a welcoming community.

In the coming years, Naugatuck will again be challenged to welcome families that come from many different places and cultural backgrounds.  We are becoming a more diverse community, but this is a positive occurrence and certainly does not correlate to an untrue perception of increased crime.

We all want to live in a safe community where instances of crime are rare.  Our Police Department is constantly using all resources available to achieve this goal.  Like all public safety units throughout the Country, the Naugatuck Police Department faces constant challenges to simultaneously prevent and deter crime while responding to acts of wrongdoing committed in the Borough.  Overall statistics indicate that we are making progress to reducing crime in the Borough in recent years.  A perspective of the facts is always helpful as we continue our ongoing efforts to fight crime in Naugatuck.

- Naugatuck Mayor Bob Mezzo

HealthyMom July 13, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Thank you for this piece. I am really sick of people blaming "the minorities" migrating into Naugatuck and causing all the trouble. My family (we are black & hispanic) moved to Naugatuck in 1997 from Bridgeport, the town then was not as diverse and accepting (I feel) as it is today. And trust me, although many thought of us as the blacks in the neighborhood, you bet my parents were and still are hard working people who earn well over 6 figures; EACH. People need to be more open minded and not so stereotypical. Great article, Thank you!
citizen July 13, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Well said Renee. I think one the borough's strength is its cultural diversity.
Elisabeth July 14, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Thank you Mayor for posting this. Reading so many negative comments from other citizens really did not make feel comfortable living in this town. But they are wrong and hopefully their mindset can change. Thank you again.
Naugatuck Resident July 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM
OMG! What a bunch of politically corretctified crap! "Rubber Capitol of the world?" Um, not in over thirty years. How is it that gang members and drug dealers "cuturally" enrich us? I've lived here since 2005 and seen the borough in the last 3-4 years become more crime and drug infested with more reports of broad daylight robberies, home invasions, assaults outside of area bars, etc. Why does the mayor in his article choose to only focus on arrests since 1990-2004? Hello, it's 2012. How about talking about arrest statistics from 2005-2011? What's changed in the borough since then? Real estate values here have plummeted compared to state and national averages since the 2008 crisis. The graphs are divergent! I've spoken to plenty of local business owners here and they see it, too. And the cops even say so off the record. But no one has the audacity to say so publicly because it's not "politically correct". Wake up and get real.
SILENT WOLF July 14, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Deversity is a good thing ,but a deverse group of people ought to be able to get together as citizens of this small town to work together and weed out the bad apples.Don't turn a blind eye when you see your own breaking the law and out to destroy what you and others have worked hard to keep.
SILENT WOLF July 15, 2012 at 04:11 AM
What say you??????
American Patriot July 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Good thing we can protect ourselves since we have a great gun shop on Rubber Ave
Bruce July 15, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Perception may not be reality, but you know what is? Reality is reality. While I was only a child in the 80's and can't speak to the type of crime prevalent back then, I'm appalled at what Naugatuck is becoming. And while Mayor Mezzo attempts to play politics with a ra-ra statement shrouded in "well, you must be racist if you have a problem with Naugatuck today", the real reality has nothing to do with race. Naugatuck's falling victim to a socio-economic quagmire that certainly is turning this town into something it wasn't 30 years ago. Poor people in growing numbers leads to more urbanized trouble, color is not a factor, $$$ is. Then again, maybe there were latin king drug fronts on Church Street in the 80's and I was just too young to notice.
brutus July 15, 2012 at 04:45 PM
this article says it all, and somehow glosses over it like it's no big deal. total arrests in 2006 were 443, and by 2009 it jumped to almost 1100. that is a HUGE increase! like you said, why look at a completely different era like the 90's, when crime was certainly more rampant across the entire region? this so-called cultural diversity that many residents have seen in recent years began at just about the time that total arrests have dramatically spiked. could that be coincidence? sure, it could be. but let's not blame residents for seeing a correlation where there very may well be. as another poster noted, it's really about socio-economic factors and not really race at all. middle class minorities moving into town should be - and are - welcome. but let's face reality here. it's simply an unfortunate fact that those facing greater socio-economic difficulty are mostly minorities, and THAT'S the "change" people are seeing but are too afraid to say out loud for fear of being called a racist. so we must come here and speak anonymously. and as anonymous and politically incorrect as it may be, it's still the truth.
HealthyMom July 16, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I think the issue is people making it a racial thing; it's very evident in comments left on this Patch. I've read many comments where Blacks and Hispanics are blamed directly. That's what should not be the case. People need to wake up and understand/accept that the "Rif-Raf" comes in all shapes, sizes and most important: RACES! The bottom line is; no town or city is immune to any sort of crime/drugs/robberies etc. It happens in the best of the best, maybe not as publicly but it does! I think as residents, if we SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. As corny as that may sound, it works. Will Naugatuck ever be a "West Hartford", probably not---but it can get better and improve. This town is lacking a laundry list of things; but we live here and its up to us to stand up for what we call home!
SILENT WOLF July 16, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Renee, it seems that you are the only one that mentions race here , gangs come in all colors as do criminals. All I SEE IN THESE COMMENTS ARE THAT PEOPLE ARE STANDING UP FOR WHAT THEY HAVE WORKED HARD FOR .
D.Hawkins July 17, 2012 at 02:49 PM
We can all help to bring harmony and peace to our town: 1. Municipal entities must play a role in cutting crime and violence. Schools, businesses, municipal government, and social services must all work together. 2. People should engage in specific, trackable actions. Cities need to have clear data on what the problems are, where they are and what's causing them. They need to know what is working and what isn't in order to use resources effectively. 3. Naugatuck must commit to crime prevention - after school programs and mentoring. Law enforcement resources must be deployed consistently with broader crime prevention objectives. Our leaders must work together with their citizens to identify problems and attack them. It is important to be tough on crime and equally important to know the root of the problem.
D.Hawkins July 18, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Naugatuck is surrounded by great little towns; Middlebury, Oxford, Beacon Falls, Bethany and there's no reason for us not to keep our standards HIGH – Our town goverment needs to add rules and regulations into place that protect us from outsiders from coming in , purchasing empty homes, then renting them without any requirements or responsibilities; it has happened to homes around my neighborhood - beautiful homes are now full of junk and broken windows. These landlords must be accountable for their tenants. We do not want what is happening to Hamden, to happen here:http://nhregister.com/articles/2012/07/18/news/metro/doc500632cd9afeb250467139
SILENT WOLF July 18, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Hawkins, there are rules and regulations in place, but ,sometimes they are not enforced. I am a landlord , and have decent tenants .Some of the times ,perhaps more often people come in to a rental putting on a good front, then bam!!! the true personality in them comes out . Lucky for me I have good tenants.. and then there are time s a lanlord is a absentee ..that always leads to destruction of property for them and others ...Bottom line Landlords and tenants need to be on the same page .Rules put in place need to be obeyed .I f you have good tenants ,or a good landlord ..you need to do whatever to protect them from the ongoing of what you are talking about...
D.Hawkins July 18, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Totally agree with you Joe - I wish more were like you and your tenants
SKID September 05, 2012 at 07:48 PM
933 rubber avenue..the new breeding ground for scum/welfare recipiants and human drains to society. More minorities= more crime.
Mike September 05, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Just look at crime statistics. It might make some people uncomfortable but it's true.
Rob October 10, 2012 at 01:34 PM
So Skid you would like to bring up South park as a problem area. What are you doing to help straighten it out. Can we find a way to work with the police that seem to go there ever day on a call and find out what they may need to help. More and more the single parent is trying to make it work and while at work their kids are unsupervised. The YMCA is 2 miles away so not helping those farther away. Can we as a community step in to help. Can we organize some intermural sports there to help out the kids before you say they go bad. Can we stop the drug flow coming in and out of the complex. Lets brain storm and find a way to help not beat them down. I am game to help if anyone know a way.
Rob October 10, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Not my fault. I watched a pretty young mother move in with a youg girl, very polite straight forward nice to talk to.She ended up being a person that abandoned her daughter on weekends to do drugs and men, let a dog crap all over the apartment, no food in the frig and then wonder why that little girl turned out rebelous and unruly. The land lord thought she was ok but behind closed doors it was a mess. That land lord took 6 months and $2000 to get rid of her. Money he didn't have. It is not always the fault of the landlord. Sometimes we try to help people out and get screwed anyway.

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