Armed Group Patrols Hartford Neighborhood to Combat Violent Crime

In Hartford, Connecticut, a predominantly Black neighborhood has taken crime prevention into its own hands. The “Self-Defense Brigade,” consisting of about 40 armed citizens, patrols the streets of the North End, particularly on nights and weekends. This group, formed by Cornell Lewis, uses body cameras and monitors drone footage to keep an eye on the community.

Lewis stated, “The Democratic machine in Hartford is either unwilling or unable, incapable of doing it, and people are paying their tax dollars, and they’re not really getting any kind of service.” This initiative has faced criticism from Hartford’s Democratic Mayor Arunan Arulampalam, who expressed concerns over potential vigilante justice. Arulampalam emphasized, “Our community has seen so much pain and trauma, and what we need is for those who love this city to do the hard work of healing that pain, not walk around our streets with guns trying to take the law into their own hands.”

However, Lewis asserts that the brigade members are not vigilantes but trained in legal security and self-defense. Each volunteer has a legal permit to carry concealed weapons. Archbishop Dexter Burke of the Walk in the Light Church of God, who supports the brigade, noted that the patrols started after a fatal shooting near his church in February.

Burke stated, “I feel that we are really putting a dent on crime. I think that we’ve exceeded 100% in terms of success.” He believes the patrols have helped counteract the anti-snitch culture prevalent in some Black neighborhoods by involving community members directly.

Despite some residents’ interest in expanding the patrol services to other neighborhoods in Hartford and New Haven, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker has voiced strong opposition. Elicker argued, “It’s a bad idea, and it’s not welcome. We need fewer guns on our street, not more.”

Both Burke and Lewis maintain that their efforts are working in their community and have no plans to discontinue the patrols. Burke remarked, “Praying alone will never fix it. We can pray all day, but it’s just some stuff we need to do.”

This armed community initiative reflects a growing frustration with local authorities’ ability to address violent crime and a desire among residents to take proactive measures to ensure their safety.

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