State Sen. Kevin Kelly: A safer CT starts with a stronger CT

August 16, 2021

Op-ed by Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly

All people deserve to live in a state where they feel safe.Safe walking down the street, driving in their car, or sleeping in their home.

Many people do not feel that way in our state today. A baby was shot while sitting in a car, a jogger hit and killed by teens driving a stolen vehicle, a woman murdered while cooking dinner. The Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage in Connecticut because demand from trauma cases is so high. Juvenile crime is in the news every day. And our biggest cities are seeing their largest upticks in violent crime in years.

While conversations have been happening at the state Capitol on some reforms, Democratic leaders have limited those conversations and kept them closed to the public. It’s time to open them and broaden the range of topics being discussed beyond just juvenile crime. We must not only improve how we respond to all crime, but also how we prevent it.

The solution to stopping crime is not going to come from a group of political elites sitting under the golden dome. We need to look outside the Capitol and into our communities. We have community leaders who no one is listening to. Democrats who have controlled our state for decades are out of touch and have allowed problems to fester, especially in our cities.

Some Democrats have even dismissed concerns about rising crime, accusing people of rooting for failure and peddling fear and hiding behind the excuse that the issue of growing crime is a national trend. The reality is there is a problem. That problem is here in Connecticut. And it is even worse in our Democratic-controlled cities.

Some say the pandemic is to blame for causing more crime. But we cannot pretend that any problem worsened by the pandemic did not also exist before the word “COVID” entered our vocabulary. If anything, the pandemic shines a brighter light on the fact that current policies are not working and it’s time for change.

Connecticut is at a crossroads when it comes to making our state safer. We can choose quick fixes and nibble around the edges. Or, we can start down a new path to not only establish appropriate consequences to combat crime, but also to prevent crime, to create opportunity and hope, and to rehabilitate by looking at the big picture.

We must broaden conversations to address the root cause of rising crime. We must look at consequences for repeat offenders, and we also must create opportunity, jobs and a ladder out of poverty. We cannot ignore that Connecticut is dead last in job growth and income growth and Connecticut’s economy is failing our kids and failing our cities. We need to create good paying jobs for all families.

We need to involve police, community leaders, prosecutors and youth advocates. We need to consider pro-city proposals Republicans have offered such as creating community investment boards to empower residents to make decisions about how to invest in their communities and our plan to build a pipeline to jobs that connects local businesses with local high schools to train the future workforce. We need to open communication and empower community members to be part of the solution.

A safer Connecticut starts with a stronger Connecticut. It starts with an economy that can support jobs, build hope and create a path to success for young people. It starts with proactive policing, appropriate consequences for repeat offenders and ensuring our justice system has the tools to successfully rehabilitate.

We cannot settle for a quick fix and call it success.

It’s past time to broaden the conversation and open it to the public. We have a call to action. We have an opportunity for change. We must not let comprehensive reform slip away.

Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly represents the 21st Senate District including Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford.