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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Horror of the Cheshire murders spotlights nationwide crime fears

Video courtesy of the Washington Post.

The horrors of the Cheshire murder continue to echo, with no less than the Washington Post riffing on what it all means:

The killings have stunned this state known for its staid insurance companies and old whalers in Mystic Seaport, sparking the broadest review of Connecticut's criminal justice system in modern history. But while rare in their scope and viciousness, the slayings, experts say, highlight a crime wave underway in small bedroom communities across America, where statistics are showing the biggest increase in violent criminal activity in years.

Not only was violent crime in suburban communities with populations between 25,000 and 49,999 up for the third year in a row in 2006, but it grew by 3.2 percent -- significantly faster than the nationwide increase of 1.3 percent, according to recently released FBI statistics. By comparison, during that same period, cities with more than 1 million people saw violent crime edge up by only 0.2 percent while rural areas saw a decrease of 5.3 percent. Only cities between 250,000 and 499,999 witnessed similar increases, with violent crime in those areas also surging by 3.2 percent.

It happens as fast-growing suburban regions find themselves coping with more drug-related and, in some cases, gang-related crimes that were once largely considered urban problems. Cheshire, a relatively affluent municipality of 29,000 between New Haven and Hartford, offers a micro-portrait of a town grappling with at least some of those ills.

Last month, Cheshire police recorded one of their largest drug seizures in years -- 22 bags of heroin found during a drunken-driving stop. Although smaller towns are more likely to witness broader fluctuations in crime than larger cities, this year Cheshire has had 28 burglaries, a 75 percent increase over the same period last year. Additionally, in February, the town witnessed a double murder (the perpetrator committed suicide) that brought its homicide toll for the year, including the Petit killings, to a record five, according to Cheshire police.

Read the rest here.

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