Hartford’s gun violence problem is worse than it is in Providence, Bridgeport, Ct., and Worcester, Ma., New Haven; Waterbury, Ct.,; Richmond, Va.; Paterson, N.J.; and Fall River, Ma., says the Hartford Courant. Of 10 Eastern cities similar in population and demographics surveyed by The Courant, only Syracuse, N.Y., has a higher rate of gun violence than Hartford as measured by the number of shooting victims per 100,000 in population. Syracuse attributes much of its gun violence to a resurgence of gang rivalries. Only Richmond surpasses Hartford in the rate of gun murders per 100,000 residents this year.
Hartford police link the spike in gun crime to a dangerous new culture among young people that stresses the need to be armed for protection and a willingness by youths to settle even trivial disputes with guns. Some disputes have involved traditional beefs over drug territory; others have erupted over arguments about stolen bicycles, jilted girlfriends, or neighborhood rivalries. “It’s the kind of stuff that you used to see kids getting into fistfights about, only now they’re using guns,” said Assistant Police Chief Mark Pawlina. “There’s a total breakdown in civility or respect for life among some of these kids.” Through June 20, 90 people had been shot in Hartford in 2005, a rate of 74 shot for every 100,000 residents. Police Chief Patrick Harnett is responding by increasing patrols and undercover investigations in targeted neighborhoods. At the request of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, state troopers will begin patrolling in the city this week to help curbing the gun violence.