Crime, A Gigantic Toothache

It’s been a rough summer for Mayor Bill Finch.

Damn tornado rips through the downtown, city cops arrest his son Pete for hauling a wind-blown street sign into a local bar, charges fortunately dropped by a state prosecutor.

Finch’s budget is bleeding badly and he needs millions in union concessions to close the gap. One department he sought for savings, the Fire Department, suffered two deaths in the line of duty. Any thought of laying off fire personnel went out the door.

The mayor was also looking for concessions from the city police union, but then violent crime spiked. The city now has 19 homicides this year. Last year the entire year experienced 14. So much for a public battle for police cuts. Let’s trim the overtime budget and be done with it.

Last week his candidate for governor Ned Lamont who outspent his primary opponent Dan Malloy by just about four to one gets croaked. Shows ya what $10 million can get. The amount Ned spent in the failed primary would cover the budget gap and more. Lamont was Finch’s ticket to a state commissionership.

The crime situation is extremely fragile for Finch. Despite negotiating a cranky budget each year Finch has waltzed through nearly three years as the city’s chief executive without crime as a governmental toothache. It is now. And if it continues an abscess is waiting to form. Bring on the root canal. Ouch! The last two homicides have occurred in the North End. If voters in higher turnout areas completely lose faith in Finch they will punish him next year. That’s why he’s not sticking his head in the sand over the latest murders. He’s showing his face in the neighborhood to express concern and try to defang the fear. This becomes a dicey juggle for the mayor.

The more concern you show the more you own it. If the spike in violent crime goes away Finch may receive credit for acting quickly. If the trend continues voters may say he cares but he can’t snuff it out. Then it becomes a ballot box weakness. Yes, the budget blew up during Mayor Tom Bucci’s second term, but the crime rate was nuts and Republican Mary Moran pounced in 1989. Yes, the budget blew up under Moran, but the crime rate was nuts and Democrat Joe Ganim pounced in 1991. Things improved dramatically by the late 1990s and crime hasn’t been the bogey man it once was … until now perhaps. Hopefully, this violent crime spike may be an aberration, but if it becomes a trend the two biggest pieces to quality of life–the budget and crime–are political poison for an incumbent.

Crime has not been a major campaign issue for many years. It may be back next year.

Jeff Kohut, veteran block watcher from the Lake Forest area, offers these public safety suggestions. Feel free to weigh in as well. From Kohut:

1. Internet-accessible Video Surveillance System: In order to augment/enhance police patrol presence and thereby discourage/prevent violence/criminal activity, and to additionally provide an automated, super-efficient means of real-time monitoring/recording of all aspects of public-safety, citywide (indicated measures for any modern municipality, even under optimal socioeconomic/global-political conditions), the city must install a “secure”, citywide, Internet-accessible, public-safety video-surveillance camera system. Such a system would allow for continual, recorded, real-time, virtual public-safety patrols to be performed by authorized civilian volunteers in tandem with police personnel — by way of the current Block Watch/Community Policing initiative… Super-efficient, automated, real-time, digital monitoring/recording of all aspects of public-safety could be accomplished through such a system, greatly enhancing our overall municipal emergency-response efficiency/capacity…

This measure can be accomplished fairly economically, via current wireless (non-infrastructure-intensive) digital technology (e.g., a system utilizing mobile Internet devices and Internet-accessible web-cams would suffice), and could be financed via federal, state, and private grants designed to address various modern municipal needs in regard to basic public-safety, homeland security, commerce, traffic/transportation-safety, digital technology proliferation-utilization, etc… 

* Please note that such a system, as described above, was proposed and pursued for neighborhood usage for several years by the Lake Forest Block Watch prior to enlisting the advocacy of then-Bridgeport state representative Lydia Martinez for the implementation of a citywide system, who, together with then-state senator Bill Finch, managed to retain a $300,000 state pilot-project grant for Bridgeport for such a citywide system in 2006… Presumably, that (entirely unused) funding is still available…

2. Hiring of Permanent Police Chief: A police force “under the gun”, as it were, as ours is, can’t afford any inefficiencies in the operation of its command chain — indeed, an efficient, “Buck Stops Here”, unequivocal operational hierarchy/chain-of-command is of the essence in a challenged policing situation such as ours… Therefore, there can be no further delay in the process of hiring a permanent chief for Bridgeport’s police force…

3. Request for Emergency Federal Jobs/Training/Activity Funding: Inasmuch as the current alarming trend in the Bridgeport homicide rate is (presumably) closely related to Bridgeport’s very-high/chronic youth/young-adult unemployment and poverty rates, a direct appeal by Bridgeport to the federal government for emergency funds to be used to expand/create jobs, job-training, and youth activity programs, on a long-term basis, for at-risk Bridgeport youth/young adults, by way of gang-diversion tactics, needs to occur in very short order. The federal government should be receptive to such a request in the context of the mounting evidence of the need for the emergency development of such programmatic, youth-directed stimulus funding on a national level (in light of current national economic indicators and youth crime trends)… (It is incumbent upon our federal and state delegations, and city and state leadership, to make a strong case for such funding in order to do everything possible to keep Bridgeport from re-entering the public-safety Twilight Zone and losing yet another generation of Bridgeport youth…

4. Secure a Specific, Major, Federal-State-Private Economic Development/Jobs Commitment for Bridgeport (GE site): Bridgeport’s collective mental and emotional health is in dire need of a real, major proverbial “bright spot on the horizon”. For Bridgeporters, a “bright spot on the horizon” means “living-wage jobs/tax relief.” A major economic development project presenting the realistic prospect of major job opportunities and eventual major tax relief would go a long way in assuaging the stresses and anxieties of Bridgeport families and young adults. If our federal and state delegations — and city and state leadership — would engage GE, with appropriate pragmatism and determination, to take the opportunity to make the wise and patriotic business decision to establish a major, state-of-the-art, corporate-flagship green-alternative-energy products R and D/manufacturing facility on its 76 Bridgeport acres (in the virtual shadow of its corporate HQ), the jobs/tax-base-producing results/future prospects could help to give Bridgeport families and young adults some hope and wherewithal to resist crime/violence and negative behavior… It could conceivably serve as the elusive catalyst for the economic recovery of our long-suffering city (or, in more Bridgeportesque terms, as the “economic anchor” of this long-adrift, blue-collar ship…).



  1. What was not said in this article is the poor response by the Bridgeport Police Department. It is quite obvious the tactics employed by the management of the police department are not working. It’s time to replace the upper management of the police department with forward-thinking leaders.
    Some of the deputy chiefs and there are 4 of them have between 30 and 40 years on the job. Time to go. Why are they hanging on? Could it be the $40-50K in overtime?
    Look according to the chief there are 21 street cops on patrol per shift that’s approx 1 cop for every 7,000 citizens. These street cops are overworked and underappreciated.
    So there are 5 shifts times 21 cops or 105 cops on patrol. There are 105 supervisors from Sgt through chief. That’s a total of 210 cops. Where the hell are the other 200-plus cops?
    Community policing is a joke pure and simple. The SET program is not working. WE NEED COPS ON PATROL.
    Ask any citizen about the police department and they will tell you What police department we never see them.
    Let’s get the cops off of horses, bicycles, segways and ATVs and get their asses in a patrol car.
    To the hardworking street cops I say Thank you. To the management of the PD I say shame on You.

  2. I agree with TC on many levels.
    First of all, I was downtown one day last week around 2:00 in the afternoon and along come 3 of the Bpt PD mounted police on Broad St. Around the corner on Main is a patrolman on his Segway chatting with another officer in a van. An utter disgrace and a waste of police manpower. I have never been a fan of the mounted police but when you see something a silly as this and realize how these offices rack up OT when there is an event at the arena or ballpark, it makes a bad situation worse.

    Secondly, the public does not want to hear logical explanations as to why the police cannot be held responsible for the spike in violent crime. They do not care how many of these murders were the result of domestic issues or drugs or … illegal guns??? Would it make the public feel safer if the guns were registered? Somehow the spin is an illegal gun is a cause of a murder. What the public wants is action. And I am not talking about a stroll down Main St by the mayor and the top cop. Have the TAC Squad perform major drugs sweeps. I don’t care if they pick up 20 people for simple possession. Have the SET Squad join in if they have nothing better to do. The one way to let the public know you are serious about crime is to arrest some criminals.

    Maybe Chief Gaudett is simply a case of wrong place wrong time. But he is only acting so it’s time for Joe to go. Name Lynn Kerwin to a provisional appointment. Send the public a message. We will not tolerate inaction. Gaudett was Finch’s fair-haired boy. But it has gone bad under his watch and it is time for a change. Then tell Dunn to get the testing done. No more delays. If there are more qualified candidates out there to lead the police department let’s find them. If there are not, let’s prove it.
    Number three, CHANGE THE TOP COP.

    At least then the public will realize the city means business and will see some real dramatic action in dealing with the crime problem.

    1. Bob and TC, as much as it hurts me to say this, You BOTH make some GOOD POINTS! Bob, you are on the City Council, Tell the Mayor to get off his ass and complete a search for chief instead of a puppet!

      The Council should use their power to make some noise and get things done. It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s hard to get things done. We need some change at the top. There are some great Supervisors with Excellent ideas on how to deter crime, but they are always given the same answer, That’s a good idea, but there is no money!

      Certain people in the department can work all the overtime they want (and they aren’t even on the street doing police work) and the Officers on the street get the shaft! “Do more with less” we are told! It’s sad! WE NEED CHANGES IN THIS DEPT!!! HELP US!!!

      1. Officer Cuccaro, Read about you getting injured in a car chase. Hope you’re feeling well. After looking at the pictures in the paper and hearing the comments from those that passed that area that morning, there was a level of concern over your injuries and those of the other officers involved. Again, I wish you and your brother officers well.

  3. Bpt’s police are looking at crime in a very reactionary way right now. Having an ear to the ground I have known there was a gang upsurge in the north end of town for a while. Walking the dog nightly in my neighborhood it’s obvious what houses are doing drug business. It does not take a lot of complicated detective work to have a good lay of the land, just a connectedness to the city streets and those who are living on them.

    We had foot patrol in my neighborhood 2 summers ago. I think foot patrol (community policing) can do wonders in helping police to get “the word on the street.” All our neighborhoods have good people living and working in them. If police have formed positive relationships and trust they will know where to look for info when these things happen; more importantly they will also prevent crimes before they happen. Numerous studies have shown community policing works.

    I agree all crimes have to be paid attention to. Letting the nuisance crimes go sets a precedent of lawlessness that only grows.
    If I were Mayor Finch I would be fighting for community policing. The most clear outcome on studies of the subject is residents FEEL more safe and secure, something that can’t hurt him right now.

  4. Bob Walsh makes some good points. Maybe some sweeps to get the attention of certain people is the way to go.

    When I was in college in the midwest, the cops used to hand out three-dollar jaywalking tickets. Now that wasn’t a bank-buster, but it set the bar.

    If the police were going to hand out (and be serious about collecting) three bucks from a college student, what do you think they’d do with a drunk and disorderly matter? Running a red light? Or being a general pain in the butt?

    The bar was set, very low, and we all knew where it was.

    Result: Low neighborhood crime. Because when students were caught for something else, the tickets were a bargaining chip cops used to get what they really wanted.

    So, if small possession charges are made, larger possession charges stick, gun charges become important and domestic disputes cease to be tolerated.

    Before you know it, PEACE BREAKS OUT!

    Way to go, Bob! Maybe you should have run against Linda!

  5. “Bridgeport Now” Tue at 8pm on Ch 88 and live on internet at

    Crime is a major issue. We need change, courage, and creative decisions. I have traveled to some other cities that have had success with this.

    But I am struck by the recent post-election CT Post front page mention of Caruso …

    “An early and effective Malloy backer, he is now a player, big time.” We will discuss that tonight at 8 pm. (lots of blog comments from last Friday, all 40 of them). Where does that leave Finch and Mario? We will have on a publisher of a local newspaper to discuss and co-anchor Michael.

    More businesses is one answer to the city’s problems, and we will do our part … showing new businesses moving into the city, this time in the Black Rock section.

    Also, at 8:30pm we have a CEO from a financial company in Greenwich on the program to discuss some pressing national issues such as debt and how useless stimulus money is in creating jobs.

    1. It’s sometimes amazing to me how history rewrites itself. When you consider how long it took and how much speculation there was on where Caruso was going to throw his support, calling Caruso an “early” Malloy backer uses a definition of “early” I previously hadn’t been aware of.

  6. Bridgeport Now. Early and effective, meaning Caruso came in on the tail end of the Malloy campaign and lost three out of four schools in his district.
    Now I do like Chris but a kingmaker he is not.


    Please be advised that the regular meeting of the City Council’s Economic Community Development and Environment Committee to be held on Tuesday evening, August 17, 2010 at 6:00 p.m., at City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, Connecticut in the Wheeler Room Side B, is hereby CANCELLED.
    Very truly yours,
    Frances Wilson
    Assistant City Clerk

    Please be advised that the regular meeting of the City Council’s Contracts Committee to be held on Tuesday evening, August 10, 2010 at 6:00 p.m., at City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, Connecticut in the Wheeler Room Side B, is hereby CANCELLED due to the lack of a quorum.
    Very truly yours,
    Frances Wilson
    Assistant City Clerk

    Please be advised that the regular meeting of the Public Safety and Transportation Committee to be held on Tuesday evening, August 3, 2010 at 6:00 p.m., at City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, Connecticut in the Wheeler Room, Side A is hereby CANCELLED.
    Very truly yours,
    Frances Wilson
    Assistant City Clerk

  8. Neighborhood watch is good in concept but with a non-responsive PD it does not work.
    The leaders in the PD come to meetings blow smoke up our skirts about block watch and the like all the while knowing it’s bullshit.
    The average street cop is up to his ass in calls and can’t meet the calls that come in from block watch many of which are BS.
    This is not rocket science no matter what the leaders of the PD say. You need cops in patrol cars not riding segways and horses or ATVs.
    If there are a lot of cops out on extended sick leave pension them off with what they have coming and put young aggressive people on the force and in patrol cars.

    1. Put bars on the windows, get a GOOD alarm system, maybe some wireless cameras (that tape). Just some tips to cut down the possibilities of this occurring again.

  9. To change the subject from all the crime problems the city is experiencing at the moment, I have to ask a question in regards to a recent article in the Post.
    Why is the city of Bpt buying a private property to make a park? Who would want to fish in the river downstream from the old Brass company? Isn’t this the property that was supposed to build cars a few years ago? When that failed, Fairfield University rowing team left the property. Now the city of Bpt is buying it for under $200,000 to make it a park. Another piece of property taken off the tax rolls. Does this benefit a local small-time developer or the city? The people of the East Side want Pleasure Beach open.
    Thanks Economic Development Office and Mayor Bill Finch.

  10. Whenever Caruso came in, early–midway–late, he was helpful. I saw him work. He delivered votes and was pleasant and actually had a great sense of humor. He did the right thing by supporting the person with the best experience to lead our state. Accept it … now on to November …

  11. As for the growing crime problem … someone needs to tell Mayor Finch he cannot charm the problem away. He needs a clear strategy which should include, in the short term, a real community policing plan for starters …

  12. Hey Frankie Cuc. Of course you would know what a puppet is. If you hadn’t lost the election you would still be in management’s pocket. You got paid chunks of dough to be there too! As for crime, look no further than the spineless leader of the PD. Zero police knowledge and is indeed a puppet for Finch. That is why they are trying to fix the Chief’s exam to keep him. Good luck BPT!

    1. TMZ,
      First of all, only my friends call me CUC.
      Second, Me in management’s pocket? My team and I got YOU an 11% wage increase, $47.00 an hour on road jobs, no raises in healthcare for 2+ years, NO LAYOFFS and a couple extra p days a year for the rest of your pathetic career!!!

      A simple “thank you” would do … P.S. You know who I am, what’s your name, “Brother?”


Leave a Reply