NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Police Department is teaming up with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to reduce gun crimes by identifying and arresting the city’s most violent offenders.
The partnership, which is modeled on similar programs in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, will develop an ongoing list of Norwalk’s “worst of the worst” violent offenders who have committed gun crimes and the team will work to get them off the streets, officials said.
Norwalk police already had long-standing relationships with the ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office, but the new program moves those relationships to the next level. There are no additional costs to the city for the program, according to Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.
“One of the reasons we selected Norwalk was that there had been a recent spate of shootings in the city,” said Dave Vatti, deputy chief of the Violent Crimes and Narcotics department for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Vatti was referring to several shootings in Norwalk that occurred during the summer.
The program draws from the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, which was developed in 2001 to help state and federal officials prosecute “serious and persistent offenders who possess firearms.”
Under the initiative, federal authorities will meet regularly with a Norwalk police officer to review all gun-related cases. They will compile the list of most-violent offenders and determine whether those individuals can be charged additionally with federal gun violations.
“I’m delighted that we have been chosen to participate in this program,” said Kulhawik in a statement. “We have always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with our federal partners, and this designation as a Project Safe Neighborhood city will greatly enhance that partnership.”
Kulhawik said the number of confirmed shootings in Norwalk to date this year is down compared to the same period in 2011, but the city still grapples with such crimes.
During a news conference Wednesday at police headquarters, Mayor Richard Moccia said the program gives authorities “another tool, another asset” in the fight against violent offenders.
“This program has the dual benefit of helping to take criminals off the streets, and do that without impacting our city’s budget,” Moccia said.