WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Mayor Neil O’Leary put it bluntly:
“It’s out of control, quite frankly,” he said.
That was his response when News 8 asked him about gunfire outside The Duggan School in broad daylight in late October. It did not happen on school property, but the school was put on lock-down. No one was hurt. But, just last weekend, Waterbury Police learned that incident was connected to neighborhood groups who have a beef with each other.
“Having beefs with each other, whether it’s over guns, drugs, women,” said Waterbury Police Chief Vernon Riddick.
“We’ve learned that there are two rivalry neighborhood-related gang activities going on so one neighborhood in Waterbury versus another neighborhood in Waterbury,” said Mayor O’Leary.
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The mayor says those groups mostly come from The North End. He also says these are mainly groups of neighborhood kids around the city, not nationally-known organized gangs. The incident outside The Duggan School isn’t the only one that’s caught his attention.
A double deadly car accident on Wolcott Street last week is also being blamed on gang-related activity. Police say two young men were killed when the car they were in was speeding down Wolcott Street early one morning. It hit a power pole and then slammed into the side of a house. Police say just before they got into that car, they were involved in a dispute involving weapons with other young people. One of the men in that car was shot in the lower part of his body then the crash happened.
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Waterbury’s Police Chief says violent crime in Waterbury has increased recently and Mayor O’Leary has seen enough. He asked the chief to renew a Gang Task Force that Mayor O’Leary was part of when he was the police chief in the early 2000’s. News 8 asked both men how it would work and how it would keep the streets safer. Both say the Task Force will include four detectives and two officers who would be assigned only to this mission. They would work 24/7 with the Street Crimes Unit to try to develop insight with these groups to gain intelligence from them.
“It’s a difficult process, it’s a lengthy process, but it’ll be very effective when they gather the information they need to start clearing out some of these cases with arrests,” the mayor said.
The mayor says the Gang Task Force was extremely successful its first time around and ended because of its effectiveness — they had determined nationally-organized gangs were out of the city.
But, seeing what’s happening now was enough to get the mayor to tell the Waterbury PD to start it up again.
“They’re out there now as we speak gathering information and intelligence,” the mayor said. “And we will be doing very aggressive enforcement action against the individuals responsible for this uptick in violence.”