A window is smashed in a vehicle that was broken into at Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Hartford Meriden, in Meriden, Conn., Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Meriden and Wallingford police are investigating a rash of smash and grab car break-ins Friday morning. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut police chiefs on Friday expressed concern about a spike in juvenile crime they believe is related to the coronavirus pandemic, as teens spend more time away from school because of remote learning and canceled after-school activities.

Police are seeing an alarming increase in car thefts and robberies involving juveniles, as well as a troubling increase in shootings involving teens and young adults, the police chiefs of New Haven and Waterbury told Gov. Ned Lamont and other administration officials during a video conference discussion about law enforcement issues arising during the pandemic.

“We have an issue where a lot of our young folks are not in school,” New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said. “These are young folks that need that structure ... that school provides them. Many of them are making bad decisions. ... Every week we’re dealing with robberies and stolen vehicles. We’re dealing with juveniles that are committing robberies. And it's very concerning.”

Crime rates dropped significantly during the 10 years ending in 2019, but violent crime has increased in many cities across the country this year, the chiefs said.

In New Haven, there were 19 murders in the city as of Nov. 8, up nine during the same period in 2019. Assaults with firearms were up 39%, and robberies with firearms increased 23%, according to the city's latest data.

In Hartford as of Nov. 28, there were 22 murders this year, down one from the same period last year, but shooting incidents increased 58% to more than 200 this year. Aggravated assaults were up 20% and car thefts were up 58%.

The number of new juvenile criminal court cases in the state has been declining in recent years. But as of Nov. 30, there were nearly 1,950 pending juvenile cases, more than the 1,905 pending cases in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019, according to the state Judicial Branch.

Police in Connecticut's cities have been working with Project Longevity and other groups, as well as community leaders and activists, to try to curb violence through programs offering therapy, housing and employment assistance, education and social services.

Lamont announced Friday that New Haven and Waterbury police will be receiving grants of $125,000 apiece from federal coronavirus-related aid to help quell the violence.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Connecticut:



Lamont said Friday that 36 more people in the state died from the coronavirus since Thursday, bringing total deaths to more than 5,360 since the pandemic began. The number of people hospitalized dropped by four, to 1,210. Nearly 3,800 more people tested positive for the virus since Thursday.

Over the past two weeks, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Connecticut has risen from about 17 to 31. Hospitalizations are nearly quadruple what they were at the beginning of November. The seven-day rolling average of new daily infections has increased over the past two weeks from about 1,396 to 2,400.



A judge has ordered the release of 17 inmates from a federal prison in Connecticut by Saturday, saying government officials have been too slow in moving medically vulnerable prisoners to home confinement or furlough to protect them from the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shea in Hartford issued the order Thursday night as part of a lawsuit by inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury.

A settlement of the lawsuit in July requires the federal Bureau of Prisons to promptly identify prisoners who are low security risks and have a greater chance of developing serious complications from the virus and release them to home confinement.

The settlement calls for prisoners to be released within 14 days of being approved. But lawyers for the inmates say some of them have been waiting nearly three months to be released after being approved for home confinement.

In court documents, prison officials cited several reasons for the delays in releasing the inmates, including required 14-day quarantines due to the virus and new Bureau of Prisons guidelines in releasing inmates to the community.

The inmates' attorneys say they are representing about 450 medically vulnerable prisoners at Danbury, which houses about 1,000 male and female inmates.

The Bureau of Prisons says there are 30 Danbury inmates and two staff members now infected with COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, 81 inmates and 67 staff members have recovered from the virus, and one inmate has died.