Crime appears to be on the rise in Norwalk.
What are police doing about it? A lot, according to Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney.
Last year, the Norwalk Police Department (NPD) made 135 more arrests than the previous year — an increase of 2 1/2 per week, according to the department’s recently released annual report.
This is part of a three-year trend. In 2016, NPD made 1,280 arrests. That increased to 1,388 in 2017 and then 1,523 last year.
Though arrest numbers are up, Conney said data “can be misleading,” since some of the arrests made in 2018 could have been from warrants issued and crimes committed in years past.
“When I see these numbers and that they’re up, it doesn’t disturb me,” he said. “I think it’s more of a reflection of people using their time better than anything else.”
Conney said officers are “aggressively” tracking down arrest warrants, making better use of their down time. If officers aren’t on a call or otherwise engaged, they are asked to look for traffic law violations or fugitives.
The police chief likened the officer’s diligence to the body’s immune system.
“You’d like a robust immune system if something bad was about to invade your body,” he said. “It’s the same thing. We want a healthy, robust immune system to keep us safe here.”
One case type that saw an increase both in frequency and severity was burglaries.
When speaking to city council about the report Tuesday, Conney said some of the past year’s cases “disturbed” him.
“Quite honestly, there were at least two break-ins that were very disturbing,” he said. “They upset me so greatly that I went out to talk to the homeowners myself and to ask them about it.”
The chief said he was bothered by those cases in particular because they didn’t follow the pattern the police are used to seeing locally.
“The neighborhoods they were in weren’t off the beaten path, not tucked back into some cul-de-sac,” he said.
“These were places where there was pretty substantial traffic, so those bother me. And the time of day those occurred bothered me as well. A lot of our burglaries happen when there’s absolute certainty no one’s there ... But in these instances, they were just out to dinner and it was at dinner hour, which is unusual as well. I was concerned as soon as I found out about them.”
When council asked if the rise in burglaries (11 in 2018, up from seven in 2017) could have a correlation to the city’s drug problem, Conney conceded some instances could be related. However, he added, “You can’t blame every property crime or break-in on drugs.” He said he believes some of the crimes were committed by “people who just make their living that way.”
NPD statistics showed an increase in the number of thefts from a vehicle, petty thefts, shoplifting incidents and grand thefts in Norwalk from 2017 to 2018. However, three of the four categories saw a decrease in the number of associated arrests.
Conney said the department is being vigilant regarding the burglaries and theft, but encouraged the community to do the same, employing a neighborhood-watch system of sorts. He said no one should feel like they’re bothering the police, or to allow such a concern to stop them from calling and reporting something — even if it turns out to be nothing.
“We’re here for you. You’re paying us to come out and investigate and if it’s nothing, that’s perfectly fine. I’d rather it turn out to be nothing,” Conney said. “If you see something that makes you think, ‘Huh, that’s not quite right,’ please call. I always want to stress that to people.”
COMING TUESDAY: Part 2 in this series will focus on sex offenses, which results in twice as many investigations as the previous year.
BREAKOUT BOX 1
This week, the Reflector is publishing a six-part series about the Norwalk Police Department’s 2018 annual report.
Here is the focus of each part:
TODAY - Crime overview
Tuesday - Sex offenses
Wednesday - Drug crimes
Thursday - Traffic law enforcement
Friday - Most dangerous intersections
Saturday - Department updates and vision
BREAKOUT BOX 2
THEFTS IN NORWALK
Here are the numbers of theft-related crimes and arrests in Norwalk during the last two years.
Category 2017 2018
Thefts from vehicle — 27 (0) 38 (2)
Petty theft — 150 (19) 158 (12)
Shoplifting — 46 (22) 49 (20)
Grand theft — 62 (9) 38 (4)
NOTE: Related arrests are in parenthesis.
SOURCE: Norwalk Police Department
“We’re here for you. You’re paying us to come out and investigate and if it’s nothing, that’s perfectly fine.”
— Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney