The city of Hartford has been the subject of plenty of negative news this year regarding crime and violence.
There have been 20 murders this year, higher than in the entire year of 2014.
Recently, Eyewitness News exclusively joined the Hartford Shooting Task Force to see how they are preventing crimes before they happen.
While it is only a short distance away from the skyscrapers of downtown, Hartford’s North End neighborhood is a very different world.
People living in that area are already facing challenges in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Connecticut, but their safety is also being threatened by troublemakers.
North End resident Rob Reed said he is struggling to raise two children and keep them safe as he works while taking college courses.
“I’ve been in trouble but I stay out of trouble now I’m wiser older I have children now of course,” Reed said.
Looking out for Reed and his children is Hartford Police Sgt. John O’Hare, who is one of the leaders of the Hartford Shooting Task Force.
O’Hare is a former Marine and got his start as a beat cop in the North End and knows every street in the neighborhood.
He said “97 to 98 percent of the people I meet in the north end or south end of the city are just like everybody else they are amazing people with a lot to offer.”
Much of the work done by the task force is good old fashioned police work, like cruising the streets to round up suspects and fugitives.
On the night Eyewitness News tagged along, it was just 24 hours after O’Hare and the team dealt with a brazen attack on Judson Street where a man was shot and hit with several bullets and survived.
However this frustrated the task force because the man refused to tell them who tried to kill him.
“The stigma attached to talking to police especially in public is epidemic we run into that we are stonewalled by the victims because they don’t want to be known as a snitch,” O’Hare said.
The task force relies heavily on the newest technology, like shot spotter which is a network that activates when it hears sounds consistent with gunfire.
Police said if someone has a gun in their hand and they want to go shoot somebody, they are going to do it.
The task force tries to get those people off the streets before they fire a gun or cause trouble.
Eyewitness News was there when the task force sprang into action.
At about 9 p.m. the task force, armed with a warrant from a judge, decided to pick up a criminal who had violated parole.
The individual had been involved in shootings, drugs and had a criminal record and police wanted him off the streets before he caused trouble.
The task force surrounded the apartment building where intelligence indicated the fugitive was hiding.
But, the members of the elite team aren’t just from Hartford police.
Members come from police in Windsor, Manchester, East Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut State Police, the IRS, the Department of Correction, the DEA, FBI and others.
The suburbs play a big role in the force because much of the illegal drug trade is funded by customers from the suburbs, and many of the guns used in city crimes were stolen from suburban homes.
“Hartford‘s problem is everybody’s problem we are the metropolis, this is where people come to work, come to eat,” O’Hare said.
About one hour after the police picked up their fugitive, another call came in of a man with a gun on Tower Avenue.
The task force went to the area but there was no sign of a gunman, or shell casings and nobody was talking.
"It was perfect. This is what we get these nights a lot, Hartford is not the wild wild west, we don't have shootings every night. These nights like these are not few and far between, I'll take them when I get them," O'Hare said.
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