Hartford records 20th murder of year, passing 2014 total

Connecticut's capital, Hartford, recorded its 20th murder of the year over the weekend, surpassing 2014's total number of homicides in the city.

Hartford, a city of 125,000 has the dubious honor of being the site of the most murders of any major New England city. Even Boston, a city five times Hartford's size, had recorded just 16 homicides as of Tuesday morning.

The 20th victim was identified as 25-year-old Devon Mitchell of East Hartford, Conn. Mitchell was shot Saturday night near a local pizza parlor. He was rushed to a local hospital, but died during surgery.

The surge in violence has confounded state and city authorities, who point to statistics showing that overall crime in Hartford and Connecticut has been down over the first half of 2015. The Hartford Courant reported last month that pre-trial jail admissions and arrests dropped more than 9 percent through June 30, 2015 compared to the same period last year.

However, the 19 murders recorded in 2014 is a low number compared to other years in the city's recent history. In 2009, the city recorded 33 murders. In 2011, there were 27 homicides, and in 2013, there were 23.

"The reality is that each of us has a responsibility to help confront the challenges we face. We will continue to work with our community, our clergy, our not-for-profits, we will continue to reach out to our young people to try and stop these acts of violence," Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said after Mitchell's death Saturday.

Local residents have blamed the spike in violence on everything from a lack of police on the streets to a lack of opportunities for young people. WFSB reports that the city has 80 fewer police officers than at this time last year due to budget cuts.

"I knew these things were gonna happen," Rev. Henry Brown, a community activist, told NBC Connecticut after Saturday's shooting. "Why? Because they give us Band-Aids ... Why don't they saturate these streets with police officers?"

WFSB said that the Hartford Police Department has accepted help from three State Police officers in an effort to stop the violence. The department has also re-established its shooting task force, though they say it is understaffed and has not received the support of neighboring towns.