Opinion: Guns, Crime, and Community

By Vinny Mangiacopra

Democratic Mayoral Candidate

NORWALK, Conn. — The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook brought the national conversation back to gun violence. Yet, it is almost certain our dysfunctional Congress will not pass any common-sense gun legislation. That does not mean, however, that Norwalk’s fight for safety is lost.

We, the citizens of Norwalk, cannot afford to sit on our hands and hope Congress acts while more shots are fired on our streets ever year. Rather, we need a comprehensive approach to combatting crime in Norwalk, particularly violent and gun-related crimes. I propose a three-step approach that should get the safety ball rolling and build a foundation for great success.

The first step is to focus on community policing. In recent weeks, I was happy to learn Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik announced that his officers would be spending more time out of their patrol cars and instead walking the beat in an effort to build their relationship with the community. The randomness of their walks will also serve to keep potential perpetrators guessing and less confident in their ability to evade law enforcement. This approach has been implemented in cities across the country following its proven success in Sacramento, California where it was found to significantly reduce crime, especially in crime “hot spot” areas.

This transition to what is known as a “community-based approach” should be universally praised. The police’s visible presence in our community is exactly what we need to build trust and cooperation between the city’s residents and their protectors. If elected mayor, I plan to walk the beat alongside Norwalk’s police force as part of the effort. An increased presence can make an immediate impact, especially for our most distressed areas.

Second, we must address our growing gun problem. Unfortunately in Washington, common-sense initiatives lack the political will to match the public’s desire. Locally, Norwalk’s attempt at a gun buy back program following Sandy Hook also produced disappointing results.

Through the initiative and the generosity of a single donor, the police department received $5,026 and removed 18 guns from the street. It was the city’s first buyback effort and Mayor Moccia did nothing to help despite his ability to raise well over $50,000 for his election every two years. There is no doubt we deserve better. In cities across the state, mayors were raising money for their programs and managed to remove hundreds of guns from their streets in the wake of the shooting.

As mayor, I will institute an annual gun buyback program that removes at least 100 guns from our streets in its first year. I am committed to this goal and will strive to make the program an annual success. I will bring in the community stakeholders, business partners, and faith based community; I will seek out the necessary funds; and I will use my pulpit as mayor to see the program to success.

While community policing and a genuine gun buy back program can make a major impact on our violent crime, we must also find solutions that give our youth and teens positive opportunities providing them an alternative to the streets – which brings us to our third step.

I’ve announced an initiative to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Norwalk. The private-public partnership could do wonders for our city. The Boys and Girls Club in Stamford fosters a great environment for the community by providing thousands of children a year with numerous activities including after school sports, leadership programs, and homework clubs. Clubs like this do more than just keep kids of the streets and out of danger, they teach life-enriching skills and create more productive citizens. With the unexpected closing of the YMCA this year, the need has intensified.

These steps are just a simple start to strengthening our community and making our streets safer. We cannot afford to wait any longer. We need change and leadership now. And on the safety of our citizens, there can be no room for half-hearted measures.

(Vinny Mangiacopra is the District D Democratic chairman as well as a Democratic candidate for mayor)


9 responses to “Opinion: Guns, Crime, and Community”

  1. NorwalkLifer

    Some common sense ideas that can actually make a difference here. Looking forward to hearing more about Vinny’s plans at Friday’s debate. It would be nice to hear more from Andy and Miklave as well.

  2. D(ysfunctional)TC

    Vinny, you don’t have to be Mayor to do a great thing like getting a B+G club established in town. Now if you had shown in your past anything near this type of accomplishment, you might actually be considered for the city’s top spot. But, sorry you are so wet behind the ears it isn’t funny. Go build your resume and come back when you’ve actually accomplished or done something useful for the public besides your self promotion and outrageous sense of entitlement.

  3. 0ldtimer

    Vinny: You have some great ideas, but, you might want to give a little more thought to “walking the beat” with the police. Walking beats have been eliminated, long ago, for cost benefit reasons and will not likely ever be restored. Working part of a shift with an officer that might include some walking around in selected hot spots may be a good idea, but could be dangerous. Before the chief would approve something like that he would probably need to talk with the legal department and get you fitted with a vest. You are not like to be an asset for the officer and could be an extra burden making an already difficult job more difficult.

  4. Tim T

    Old timer
    As I am sure you are aware police Ride-alongs are done all over the country in towns, cities and Moccia urban Centers. Are you saying crime is so out of control in Norwalk that it is way to dangerous?? If so you may be onto something.
    Also as far as walking the beat our new chief who lives out of town read in a magazine about walking the beat and reinstated officers to walk a full 10 minutes per shift.

  5. Harold

    Some really good ideas here. B&G club is needed here for sure!

  6. Norwalk Dinosaur

    These seem like great first steps that can be implemented with little cost to taxpayers. The more that I hear from Mr. Mangiacopra, the more impressed I am with his campaign.

    @D(ysfuntional)TC – using the office of mayor is exactly how you get a B&G’s club to a city like Norwalk. You can help find suitable properties/lots, work with the council to find public funds and use one’s title of Mayor to raise private funds and trump up public support.

    Your, “wet-behind-the-ears” attack on Mr. Mangiacopra is getting old. You seem to be wet-between-the-ears. If the best Mr. Mangiacopra’s detractors can come up with is, ‘he’s too young’ than he’s in pretty good shape.

    I look forward to watching tomorrow’s debate. If Mr. Mangiacopra delivers a performance like he did during The Hour’s editorial board meeting, this is going to quickly become a two-person race for the Democratic nomination.

  7. D(ysfunctional)TC

    NorwalkDino wrote…..can work with the council to find public funds. What a great idea for Vinny to run for council first and learn something about this city, which he has barely lived in and contributed almost nothing to. Enthusiasm alone isn’t a qualifier. Norwalk needs to be run by experienced leaders and not jobless malcontents.

  8. Don’t Panic

    So, foot patrols are the new chief’s idea. The gun buyback program was actually a part of Mr. Garfunkel’s previous campaign for Mayor and is largely being promoted throughout the country. These are not original ideas from the Mangiacopra campaign.

    We lost our YMCA and the South Norwalk Community Center and NEON are not getting along, so we should recruit yet another organization here to help our youth. Change for change’s sake is called “churn” in business. It is almost always costly and unsuccessful.

    Mr. Mangiacopra mentioned the many “visions” he has for Norwalk at yesterday’s debate. He has yet to articulate one that encompasses the higher-level, complex issues that we are facing, or a plan to pay for some of the suggestions he already has without raising taxes.

    Mr. Mangiacopra seems better suited to serve Norwalk the same way he served Monroe. Perhaps the new mayor will put him in Mr. Diesel’s office.

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