On July 23, a pair of longtime drug users — released on early parole amid procedural errors in case reviews — allegedly invaded the home of endocrinologist William Petit Jr. in Cheshire, Ct., severely beating him, sexually assaulting and strangling his wife, sexually abusing their daughter and killing her and her sister. While rare in their scope and viciousness, the slayings highlight a crime wave in small bedroom communities, where statistics show the biggest increase in violent criminal activity in years, says the Washington Post. Not only was violent crime in suburban communities with populations between 25,000 and 49,999 up for the third year in a row in 2006, but it grew by 3.2 percent — significantly faster than the nationwide increase of 1.3 percent, say FBI statistics. Dring that same period, cities with more than 1 million people saw violent crime edge up by only 0.2 percent while rural areas saw a 5.3 percent drop. Only cities between 250,000 and 499,999 witnessed similar increases, with violent crime there also surging by 3.2 percent.
Fast-growing suburban regions find themselves coping with more drug-related and gang-related crimes that were once considered urban problems. Cheshire, a relatively affluent municipality of 29,000 between New Haven and Hartford, offers a micro-portrait of a town grappling with some of those ills. “What we’re seeing is a dispersal of crime” beyond urban areas, said June Stansbury of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Especially with drug-related crimes, we’re starting to see some of the same patterns in suburban areas. It’s gotten to the point where it can no longer be kept quiet. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe we need to admit there is a problem and deal with it.” Said criminologist David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice: “Does the crime that happened in Connecticut happen all the time? No, absolutely not. But are there more crimes happening in small- and medium-sized population centers? Yes, of course. Look, crime statistics may reportedly have improved in New York City, but on Long Island you are seeing the creation of pockets in suburban areas that are very, very tough.”