"Tell the truth and then they have an easier time adjusting to it. The city is out of control. There is no law. There is no consequence for people's actions. The whole attitude of ' Me first and to heck with my neighbor' has become the status quo here, and it is a serious problem," stated J Stan McCauley.
McCauley, a former mayoral candidate and cable access television personality, compared Hartford CT to an alcoholic, whose first step toward recovery should be to acknowledge a problem. That acknowledgement by Hartford Police Chief Daryl Robert's and his public declaration that Hartford has become toxic in it's level of incivility has sparked anger, questions and introspection among many in the state. Both leaders and resident now wonder if the capital city has reached a tipping point with the events of the past week.
On Friday afternoon, May 30 2008, the hit-and-run accident that left Angel Arce Torres, 78 paralized and lying in the middle of Park St, was caught on tape and was in full view of both passing motorists and onlookers. On Monday, a savage beating and robbery left the former Deputy Mayor Nicholas Carbone in the hospital with severe head injuries and facing the possibility of surgery. Two days later, on Wednesday, police discovered the badly decomposed body of a man in the basement of a recently foreclosed home.
Roberts reacted to those recent incidents with anger on Wednesday, saying the acts were inhumane, that the city had lost it's moral compass and had a toxic relationship with ourselves. Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez held a press conference on Thursday, in what he called a show of solidarity and called on the help of citizens to help solve the crimes in the past week. The critics of Perez have accused him of concentrating on selling the city and it's dropping crime rate and not focusing on owning up to it's real problems.
Angel Arce, Torres' son attended that conference and stated that he has refused to watch the video of his father being hit. He did ask for justice for his father though. Roberts has stated that he doesn't believe that anyone called 911 after the accident but Perez countered with a statement that said that he believed that within a minute of the accident, there were four calls to 911. Those calls according to him were for an ambulences, described the cars involved and where they were heading.
Perez went on to say that he felt Robert's had reacted to the graphic images of the video and he felt that the resident's of the city have morals and a resevoir of goodwill. Robert's didn't speak at that conference but did answer a reporters question about his earlier statements by backing off of them. stating that he had been very angry the day before.
Many however feel that Robert's comment on Wednesday were the first candid ones about the situation in Hartford in camparison to what they feel was Perez's sugar coating initial response. Steve Harris, a neighborhood leader in the North End and a former councilman stated that he first felt angry that "we have become so uncaring and desenitized that we allow this stuff to go on." Harris goes on to state that he has confidence in Robert's who grew up in the city but he added that Hartford has many quality of life issues that need to be dealt with. He felt that Perez spends too much time trying to convince people that it is safe to eat and play in the downtown area and little time listening to the average citizen in Hartford.
"I think government provides infrastructure for maintaining law and order but government doesn't make people behave properly. The only way we can make that happen is if people make that their standard," stated Robert Painter.
Painter, a former Republican city councilman, stated that he felt Robert's had hit the issue right on the head. He did agree that no one wants to hear "spin" from city hall that crime is down, rather they want their politicians to respond in a way that is realistic. Painter went on to state that he felt that the problem wasn't in a breakdown of goverment but in a breakdown of family and community.
For those who commute into the city of Hartford to work, there seems to be a wall around the downtown area that isolates them from the rest of the city and it's problems. Most who had been interviewed there on Thursday stated that they rarely linger there after work is out. Some felt that maybe the youth today were becoming desensitized to the "gore factor" and as a result, aren't sensitive when it happens to real people. Many of those interviewed did add that they only become concerned about the level of violence in the city when it comes into the downtown area where they work.
The city of Hartford hadn't even recovered from the shock of watching the video of Torres being run down on Park St when news came that former Deputy Mayor Nick Carbone had been brutally attacked while on his routine walk to breakfast in the city's Frog Hollow. Carbone, 71, of Park Place in Hartford apparently struck right between the eyes by his attackers on Monday while walking in the section of the city he had helped to revitalize in the 1980's and which has long been his home.
Carbone was found bloody and bruised at about 9:15 am Monday on a stone path that is used as a short cut from Laural St to Capital Ave and his wallet had been stolen. Because of the injuries to his face, doctors suspect that his attacker or attackers may have kicked him in the forehead. He is in stable condition and they are waiting on the report from the neurosurgeon as to whether he will need brain surgery but they do expect that he will have reconstructive facial surgery.
Carbone's son Michael described his father, a cancer survivor, as a man who refused to move from the city he loved. Carbone grew up in the South End and joined the city council in 1969 and was elected majority leader in 1971. While in city hall serving a decade as the deputy mayor, he spearheaded construction of roads, schools, garages and a police station. Under his leadership, the city filed lawsuits and administration challenges to utility increases, discriminatory sububan housing practices and the state property tax system.
Carbone has never left politics in the city, still serving on the city's Democratic town committee and he has long been involved in a federal court dispute between city officials and citizens who have complained about police brutality.
"He was proud of his city. He was never scared. It was 9:15 am, not three o'clock in the morning. We've passed the threshold. It has reached a level of lawlessness. We need to do something. I don't think city hall or the police department understands the nature of violence in this city. We're in bad shape," stated community activist Carmen Rodriguez.
Marilyn Rossetti, who served on the city council and now runs Hartford Areas Rally Together stated that she takes two messages from Carbone's assault: First, violent crime doesn't only happen at night and second, no one is immune from random acts of violence. The police are still searching for the two vehicles involved in Torres' hit-and-run and and an unknown number of suspects in the beating of Carbone. They have asked for the help of the community in solving these cases, the same public who seemed to not care when they happened.
Sadly, it seems to be true of both incidents in Hartford................... no one is immune from random acts of violence, though one can work to make sure that a victim isn't left to lie in the road like a piece of garbage anymore. Hartford CT is no different than many cities across the United States, we may well have become a society of "me first and to hell with helping my neighbor in trouble."
For the video, go here.
Photos include, map of the accident scene, stills from the video and photo of Nick Carbone.