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Southington police survey finds support for officers, concern about crime

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SOUTHINGTON – Police presented results from a local survey that show residents are largely pleased with law enforcement but have concerns about auto crimes and personal safety.

Southington’s police department put out the survey in July and August, gathering more than 1,000 completed or nearly completed responses.

Police Chief Jack Daly presented the findings to the Town Council Monday night. Ninety-seven percent of those with a recent police interaction said they were treated with professionalism and respect. Ninety-one percent rated their interaction with police as good.

“I think that’s pretty impressive,” Daly said.

Over the past few years as the public’s relations with police have deteriorated in parts of the country, Southington police officials have said town residents have maintained trust in local law enforcement.

Survey respondents were mostly white at 89 percent and largely female at around 70 percent.

Crime prevention

Areas that residents felt needed improvement were crime prevention and neighborhood patrols. The top concern was auto crimes which have skyrocketed in recent years.

Daly said there’s a host of measures to combat criminals who are breaking into cars and stealing items or the vehicle itself. The town will be adding automated license plate readers to areas of town to identify stolen cars, often used by perpetrators. Local police also work with regional auto crimes task forces and met with hotel owners recently to address auto crimes in hotel parking lots.

“Southington’s all in in this fight,” Daly said.

The survey asked residents about how safe they felt around town as well. Daly said women reported feeling far more unsafe than men. A third of women felt unsafe alone at night, while 14 percent said they felt unsafe on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.

Attitudes toward police

For those who had interactions with police, the survey asked whether residents felt they were treated with professionalism and respect.

A majority of people from all races said they were. Of the 519 white respondents, 16 said they weren’t which totaled 3.1 percent. One of the five total Black respondents to that question said no.

Daly said the 18 to 34 age range was the most dissatisfied with police. As with all the data gathered in the survey, he said police leaders would consider how to improve the department based on the responses.

Victoria Triano, council chairwoman and a Republican, had praise for both the department and Daly as chief. She said it was a brave thing to open the department up to public opinion through the survey.

Daly said the department is supported by the town which helps them hire selectively.

“We can take the best of the best. We don’t settle for just putting a body in the seat,” he said.

A state legislation problem?

General Assembly members representing Southington attended Monday’s meeting or had statements read for them.

State Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, spoke Monday, outlining policies that he blamed for the recent crime wave. He cited the risk reduction bill more than a decade ago and steps along the way including the police accountability bill and the elimination of immunity for police officers, raising the age of offenders considered juveniles and the erasure of criminal records.

“The number of car thefts are directly related to these policies that have changed the way our local law enforcement are allowed to interact with criminals, how our courts operate,” Sampson said. “What needs to happen is a change in those policies on a state level.”

Chris Palmieri, a Democratic councilor, objected to Sampson’s framing of the issue and his criticism of state Democrats.

“Right now we’re hearing a very one-sided presentation,” he said Monday night.

Sampson said he was trying to present the chronology of events as factually as possible.

Palmieri read a statement from state Rep. Chris Poulos, a Democrat representing the 81st House District. While a councilor, Poulos broke with his party and signed onto a Republican petition for state criminal justice changes.

In his statement, Poulos outlined the efforts and laws he’s supported that could help combat crime. Those include bills making it harder to sell catalytic converters as well as an increase in penalties for street racing and street “take-overs.” Poulos said he’s opposed softening consequences for juveniles and opposed broadening eligibility for paroles and commutations.

“I remain an unwavering advocate of public safety,” Poulos wrote.

State Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, a Republican representing the 80th House District, had several questions for police about how they could be supported during Monday night’s presentation.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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