SOUTHINGTON — The Town Council was divided nearly along party lines during a vote Monday on a resolution concerning auto crimes.
Resolutions have at times been contentious and as recently as last month sparked debate when the council adopted a resolution in support of the gay community.
The council’s six Republicans were joined by a Democrat during Monday’s vote in support of a resolution calling on state officials to better address auto thefts and burglaries, particularly with juveniles.
Two Democrats opposed the resolution.
“Since 2012, state law makers have passed significant legislation, including legislation effective October 2019, which have emboldened criminal behavior and left residents vulnerable and afraid,” the resolution said.
“The Southington Town Council strongly encourages the Governor and the General Assembly to recognize that matters pertaining to juvenile and adult justice insufficiencies, escalating crime, and public safety have resulted in serious consequences for the citizens of Southington,” it said.
The resolution outlined rising auto crimes, changes in juvenile detention and prosecution and restrictions on police in chasing or interrogating suspects of burglaries.
Send message or add police?
Republican councilors said changes need to happen at the state level to reduce burglaries from and thefts of cars. Those crimes have more than quadrupled from 2019 to 2020. Police officials have said many of the perpetrators are juveniles under the age of 18 who face few consequences if caught.
“The laws that have been recently passed completely tie our police department’s hands,” said Victoria Triano, council chairwoman and a Republican. “We are begging the state legislature to do something to bring about justice and also consequences for this kind of action. We are sitting ducks.”
Michael DelSanto, a Republican councilor, said the resolution sends a message to Hartford.
“We won’t continue to be victimized and terrorized,” he said. “We should not have to lock our car doors inside our garage and take our keys upstairs.”
Democratic council members said the resolution was ineffective and took aim at policy changes that have been working to reduce the number of youth offenders.
Chris Palmieri, a Democratic town councilor, said locking up juveniles is costly and ineffective compared to wrap-around services. Recent car burglaries and thefts are part of a nationwide trend that may have more to do with the pandemic than state law. Crime overall has decreased, Palmieri said.
He suggested adding funding for an additional police officer to the town’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“I understand that adding police is not a definitive solution either, but is certainly something we have control over,” Palmieri said.
Republican councilors said they were willing to consider an additional officer, but also wanted to approve the resolution.
“We’ve got to put (state legislators) on notice,” said Bill Dziedzic, a Republican councilor.
The resolution passed in a 7-to-2 vote. One Democrat, Chris Poulos, joined Republicans in supporting the resolution. He said while he didn’t agree with all of it, the resolution could spark a needed dialogue with state officials on the issue.
Resolutions on gay pride, tolls
While the council unanimously adopted a resolution in support of the gay community at its previous meeting, Democrats and Republicans had sharp differences over the wording. Some of the suggestions, such as an expanded list of non-heterosexual orientations and gender expressions, were included in the final resolution.
In 2019, Republicans approved a resolution opposing tolls on state highways over the objections of council Democrats. Republicans had proposed the resolution during the previous term when Democrats held a majority on the council but were outvoted.
Republicans argued the resolutions, although not binding in state matters, sent a message to legislators. Democrats said tolls weren’t a local issue and beyond the purview of the council.
The Democrats’ votes against the tolls resolution was referenced in Republican campaign signs in the municipal elections two years ago. Town residents will vote in municipal elections this November.
Paul Chaplinsky, a Republican councilor, said resolutions and other opposition from Connecticut towns helped prevent tolls from becoming a reality. He supported Monday’s resolution on addressing auto crimes.
“Our residents need your help, because we’re under siege,” he said to state leaders.