While optimistic about the federal initiative, Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane said the state has launched its own efforts.
A recently-formed task force in Hartford has focused on non-fatal shootings. In many such cases, after victims and witnesses refused to cooperate, the investigations were dropped. However, through careful sifting of physical evidence, such as shell casings left at crime scenes, police and prosecutors have been able to detect patterns of shootings by specific groups, he said.
Even with robust federal aid, state prosecution will be important, Kane said. "Most murders, attempted murders, and assaults are state crimes," Kane said. Federal "organized crime" statutes, such as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), are not easily applied to cases where gang members shoot each other with the motive being little more than feeling disrespected.
Kane said he didn't anticipate court dockets being dramatically affected by Project Longevity. "The system will function," he said. "There will be more arrests, I'm sure, but if they've been well-investigated, many of them won't end up being tried."
As for New Haven specifically, he noted that in the past year and a half, New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman has focused on anti-violence measures. What's new, Kane said, is creating a larger and longer-lasting alliance of groups to address the problem.
"It's great getting the community groups involved, and the ministers and the other support agencies," Kane said. "Parole and probation is hoping to get involved. There are ways to arrest and prosecute the serious perpetrators, and to divert the others into more productive things. That's the only way we're going to get a grip on the cities."