Whose Interests Are We Guarding?

Other than the military personnel who are armed to the teeth with coffee and junkfood from Dunkin Donuts, I rarely see significant foot traffic near the Legislative Office Building. Mostly, people drive to the parking garage and enter the building through the pedestrian entrance, never needing to come into contact with sunlight. Yet, there are large, well-marked warnings painted on the driveway, warning motorists to slow down. There are stop signs posted in places that make them more noticeable. There are even neon yellow signs telling motorists to stop for pedestrians — the signs are posted right in the crosswalks. I do appreciate this, as I use the area as a safer passage to downtown, given that the alternative of continuing along Capitol Avenue means having to cross the I-84 on/off ramp. Even with the stoplights all working and with the pedestrian walk signal on, the cars do not stop. Last week I saw a noticeably pregnant woman pushing a stroller across and the cars were not even obeying the law for her. It seems strange that few such safety features exist along a major street, but within a parking lot, traffic is managed quite well.

Sunday morning, when I read about the volunteer crossing guard who was threatened with arrest for keeping children safe, my heart sank. I read the article a few more times, trying to find a hidden clue that would make this story make sense. In a nutshell, a grandfather, who happens to be a disabled Vietnam Vet, decided to contribute to society by helping children safely get across the street to the Achievement First Academy in the Blue Hills neighborhood. He began this back in September. He had been honored by the school in the school newsletter and by being given a vest and stop sign. That sounds like his actions had been more than merely approved of by those he was interacting with directly.

Why threaten a man with arrest for helping society? (more…)

78 Fewer Firearms

A bit of good news that should not be overlooked is that 78 firearms were voluntarily handed over. The Hartford Police Department reports:

Hartford – On December 5, 2009 the Hartford Police Department in conjunction with Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the Community Renewal team conducted a
Gun Buy Back Program” at 555 Windsor Street. The Gun Buyback Program allowed citizens to turn in unwanted firearms for a gift card. Citizens received a $25.00 gift card for a shotgun or a rifle, $50.00 for a revolver, and $75.00 for a semi-automatic handgun.

As a result of the program, 78 firearms and numerous rounds of ammunition and gun magazines were safely relinquished to the Hartford Police Department. All firearms and ammunition were brought to the Hartford Police Department. All recovered firearms will be destroyed unless forensic testing confirms they have been used in the commission of a crime.

Giving people a non-threatening way to make the right choice has positive results.

Local Missing Teen Returned Safely

We all are familiar with the disappearance and tragic murder of the Yale student.

Unless you read the Hartford Police Department website or somehow caught a brief mention of it at WTNH, you might not have known that a young Hartford teen went missing recently. The HPD announcement says that the girl was “missing from the Gray Lodge Facility since last week” in their September 11th press release. The 15 year old garnered no media attention (at least nothing that is searchable on their web sites, which publish most news items) from the Hartford Courant, WFSB, NBC30, or the Journal Inquirer. A broader search on Google showed the same. Only WTNH bothered. One can only speculate as to why the media can afford to devote constant coverage to one missing persons case, but not to another, especially one involving a youth. Fortunately, the HPD reported yesterday that this girl was safely returned to the Gray Lodge. Thank you to the Hartford Police Department and WTNH for giving a damn about our city’s teenagers.

Towing Reform

George Gombossy (formerly of the Courant) reports that there will be some significant towing policy changes in Hartford. A few years ago when my stolen car had been recovered, I was informed that it was towed (without my consent or choice of who would tow it) to an autobody and storage in the South Meadows. While this was not the biggest headache in the entire ordeal, I would have preferred to have my car towed using AAA and brought to an autoshop I had already developed a relationship with. Fortunately, it looks like others those cars break down or are stolen will not have to tolerate the HPD making these types of decisions for them in the future.

Staycation 2009

When my friend David told me he’d secured a reservation for a trip to the top of the Travelers’ Tower, I had no choice but to invite myself along. This would bring me downtown in the late morning, and since I had plans to be less than a block from there later in the afternoon, I figured I would just spend the time in between downtown.

At eleven we zoomed to the 21st floor. I did not think about the logistics of this. After having walked 2.5 miles to get downtown, the three flights of stairs did not seem so fun. The view was worth the panting. From the street, the tower does not look like it can hold more than two people. We had six people up there, and there was plenty of room for more. I had no luck locating my apartment.

East Hartford

Whose Guardians?

It’s been reported that the Guardian Angels had been contacted after a series of murders; on Sunday, a group of the Guardian Angels walked the Garden Street area. This “patrol” was designed to assess the situation. The Hartford Courant reports that Guardian Angels will begin weekly patrols, and that the group’s founder wants there to be a Hartford chapter; an earlier attempt to do just that failed in the 80s. For those who do not remember, there was controversy about the group then. Recent news about the GA’s visit to Hartford reference controversy, without really spelling out what the issues are.

According to their own website, they have won presidential praise, are global, and are a way for people to do community service.

In the recent Courant article, someone questioning the group was described as a thug:

“That’s for show,” said one bystander, a young man with a mouthful of gold-capped teeth and dressed in a matching yellow shirt that read “Born Killers.” “They can’t stop nothing. We’re out there every day. When they leave, there’s gonna be a shooting.” The man would not give his name.

His comments — which might have been construed differently had he been described as an elderly man or a shop owner — only echo a critique of the Guardian Angels that has been made elsewhere. In a discussion about the GA’s presence in New Bedford, one person commented:

They came to Brockton, and are hardly seen… ** ONLY ** when a news camera is around, they come out!


Bed Bugs, Noise, and Other Things to Make Your Skin Crawl

If you have gripes about any of the following, then the place to be on July 15th is the Hartford Public Library: bed bugs, public safety, crime, violence, noise, street racing, graffiti, neighborhood cleanliness, and blighted buildings.

From 6-8pm the “Summer in the City: Quality of Life in Hartford” panel will be moderated by Councilperson Jim Boucher. Light refreshments will be available beginning at 5:30. A representative of the Hartford Police Department will be on hand.

At the same time, there will be a forum on bed bugs. The Mayor’s office sent out a press release for this:

The City of Hartford Health and Human Services Department in collaboration with the Hartford Public Library will be offering a community forum to inform Hartford residents about solutions to an issue affecting urban centers such as Hartford in recent years- bed bugs. (more…)

HPD Acknowledges Citizen Complaint About Misuse of Authority

The Hartford Police Department has released a copy of the complaint filed against Hector Robles. I know I saw an extensive write-up on this the other day, but it appears to have been pulled off whatever news site it was on. If it reappears, I’ll link to it.

EDITED: I was wrong. The write-up wasn’t something I had read online; it was from an actual, physical newspaper– La Voz Hispana.  I should have remembered right away because I even commented while reading it that it’s a little bogus that to get detailed reporting on local politics, I have to read a Spanish-language newspaper. I guess that’s my incentive to learn more Spanish, because I’m not getting much from the English-language papers.

Tales from the Cesspool: Part Three

daskapitol.jpgThe embellishments and lies distributed in past days by the media only damages Hartford’s reputation. Posting video of a person lying in the street after being hit by a car seems to be in bad taste, serving no function, except ironically, to show that the reports do not line up with reality. As several, including Heather Brandon, have noted, the time lapse between the accident and assistance was about 90 seconds. People did help. Those people happened to be the police.

Before making all kinds of judgments, let’s hear some reasons for possible bystander inaction:
1. callousness and/or apathy toward fellow human beings
2. trauma from witnessing a kind of violence
3. ignorance of first aid (most people are not required by their jobs to be trained in this)
4. lack of cell phone (that would have been my reason for not calling 911)
5. assumption that someone else had already alerted authorities

In times like this, we can’t trust the media or total outsiders to carefully assess the situation. For all of the judgments cast on witnesses, one could ask why journalists, who routinely capture violence (sometimes preventable) on camera do not put their cameras down to help. Just saying.

lincolnstowe.jpgThere have been a few more sensitive and sensible responses to recent highly publicized incidents, as well as to other misinformation distributed by the media:

  • Heather Brandon
  • breaks it down for you on her blog:

    What’s happening in Hartford is happening “to us all,” it’s just that you may not see the same kind of hit-and-run just anywhere as a case-in-point demonstrating the ills of today’s society.

    The city does not have a monopoly on purely self-interested behavior. That’s an issue we can all own, rich or poor, highly educated or not, wherever we dwell.

  • Mayor Perez
  • sent out a press release days ago:

    Mayor Eddie A. Perez is calling on the people of the City of Hartford to turn
    their outrage into action in the wake of recent incidents that have plagued the Capital City.

    In a news conference with city leaders, business owners, clergy, and family members of victims,
    Mayor Perez says, “We are here to stand together as a community and a city and send a clear
    message: We are not going to let anybody take away the progress we have made to make
    Hartford a safer city.”

    The group was unanimous in their feelings that the “City of Hope and Opportunity” is filled with
    law-abiding citizens who partner with police every day to make Hartford more vibrant. That
    was made clear by announcing the fact that four 9-1-1 calls were made within one minute
    of an elderly gentleman being struck on Park Street.

    Joining Mayor Perez were Council President Calixto Torres, Majority Leader rJo Winch,
    Minority Leader Larry Deutsch, Councilman Luis Cotto, Angel Sierra of SAMA (Spanish
    American Business Association), businessman Carlos Lopez, Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts,
    Superintendent Steven Adamowski, and Bishop Jeremiah Torres. Together they shared their
    feelings of devastation about the acts of violence and prayed for the families. Angel Arce, whose
    father is the victim in the dramatic video, shared in this collective plea for Hartford to continue to
    show compassion and bring this and other crime cases to justice.

    Mayor Perez says, “As a community, we have made the city safer over the past few years,
    however, it is also true that these terrible acts that have harmed our community show we still
    have a long way to go. Again, we as a city must turn our outrage into action and become full
    partners in the drive to build on our progress.”

    When I write about these issues, I feel like I am in my classroom, teaching about logical fallacies. It’s no surprise why quite a few students enter with the belief that one can only be entirely for or entirely against something–society emphasizes this kind of thinking. It is possible to have many emotions while at the same time understanding facts and statistics.

  • Colin McEnroe
  • reminds readers that witnesses might be hesitant to act because they could be sizing up the situation. If it is true that the hit-and-run happened after a car was following another at high speed, then there’s a chance that the situation was not over. Last year I called the police when there was some kind of dispute happening on the street. Of course, the cops never showed for that one. After the people involved seemed to disperse, they reappeared in the same location a few minutes later, having raced around the block. Thing is, it’s easy to judge a situation when one is not in the middle of it.

  • Jude
  • explains why there can be hesitation to call the police. This is something that I have experienced when witnessing various activities that could have been crimes, or could have been something totally innocuous. Obviously, someone hit by a car would need help, but we can’t pretend that everything that happens is that cut-and-dry. And, most importantly, I think is that we can’t pretend that Hartford is an island experiencing unique problems. Again, let me remind that insidious crimes occur in the suburbs, and people routinely turn their heads. Instead of it being a hit and run, maybe the crime is domestic violence, a young teen developing a drug addiction, or incest. To be honest, I’m more understanding of someone being emotionally paralyzed after witnessing a singular horrific accident or crime, than I am of someone who refuses to act during a long term problem.

    belle.jpgSo, while Hartford is being (once again) cast as the villain, wonderful things are happening here. I’ll get to that in a minute, but I think we can’t lose sight of this. Last week, someone was brutally mugged, someone else was hit by a car, and someone’s decomposed remains were found in a basement. But, I think the norm here is to help others out, to not rob, to not ignore a situation, to be friendly. From now on, I might keep track of how many days I am able to safely walk to work or elsewhere. I should document the ways in which people do not behave like barbarians, because nobody is going to get this perspective from reading the newspaper. My neighbors hold doors for me. They’ve helped me when my bag of groceries bust in the elevator. People say hello when they pass. It’s not perfect. There’s broken glass and dog shit on the sidewalk; people crank their music and drive recklessly…but the extremes of gross behavior that we hear about are not the norm. Not by a long shot.

    On Thursday there was a discussion at the library about discord between gays and transfolk in the GLBTI community. (And for the record, I spent a few hours there beforehand, and did not come upon anybody having sex in the bathroom, looking at porn on the computers, or stealing books) Not everyone agreed on where the problem was or even how to resolve it, but the conversation was civil and interesting. There was talk about youth outreach (to prevent suicide and keep kids off the streets), being a triple minority (black, female, and gay), recognizing the different pieces of ourselves, not letting others define us (coming up with our own labels, whether they be “queer,” “trans,” “genderqueer,” etc), and how being a parent can complicate how and when we decide to come out. I forget who said it, but my favorite thing said was this: “People who were happiest were living their lives in an uncompromising fashion.” Amen!

    bbb.jpgI left the discussion a few minutes early to get down to the park so that I’d catch some of the blues festival. Talk about diversity! There were bikers, bicyclists, families, teens, and that after-work crowd. Between the police presence and ample portapotties, event planners went out of the way to make concert goers feel safe and comfortable.

    There are plenty more reasons to come into Hartford this summer. The City of Hartford website lists some upcoming events. On Tuesday, CCSU’s Institute for Regional and Municipal Policy, Soujourn Theatre, and HartBeat Ensemble will be having a presentation with time for community discussion on why “Connecticut has lost more young adults ages 25-34, since 2000, at a faster rate than any other state in the country.” This will be from 8:30-9:45 in the Hartford City Hall Atrium, and from noon to 1:15 at the Legislative Office Building in room 2B.

    There will be a series of free events at the Riverfront, including:

  • Riverfest on July 5th
  • Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival on July 12th
  • Taste of the Caribbean on August 2nd
  • Connecticut Ballet on August 23rd