DANBURY -- A state Department of Correction official took issue with Mayor Mark Boughton's comments last week attributing a recent spike in burglaries in the city to changes in prison policies and the closing of a state correctional institution last year.
"We haven't closed a facility in almost a year, so why there would be a spike now is puzzling," correction spokesman Brian Garnett said. "If he has any facts to back up these allegations, we'd certainly look into them."
Boughton made the comments Tuesday in regard to police reports indicating more than 70 burglaries had occurred in the city since March 1, a pace that, if continued, would result in the highest number of such crimes in 13 years.
The mayor blamed the spike at least partly on changes in DOC incarceration rules, as well as the prison closing, which he said had the effect of putting more drug-addicted individuals on the streets who committed crimes to support their habits.
"We're seeing this all over. It's not just in Danbury," Boughton said.
But Garnett said that no prisons had been closed since Bergin Correctional Institution in Storrs was shut down in July, and that facility housed mainly inmates who were close to completing their sentences.
"We are very careful in the way we release offenders. It's done in measured and structured ways," he said.
Danbury's increase also isn't reflected in most other area communities, where the number of burglaries is down or occurring at about the same rate as in 2011.
Even in Stamford, a police spokesman said, the rate has remained steady.
"No spike here," said Sgt. Peter diSpagna said.
Norwalk hasn't seen any increase in home burglaries at all, said Lisa Cotto, a sergeant in the community service unit.
All they have had is a few more break-ins of vehicles at the train station, she said.
Only in Brookfield, where Major Jay Purcell said 21 burglaries or attempted burglaries were reported through May 23, has there been an increase.
At the same time last year, there were 12, he said.
"We've found a lot of this stuff is going to pawnshops, and that tells you it's drug-related. And when you get hit with two or three in the same day, that tells you it's the same individual or individuals," Purcell said.
In New Milford, police department spokesman Lt. Larry Ash said there has been a sharp drop in burglaries, from 64 during the first five months of 2011 to 33 this year.
"We just all of a sudden had a spike, but the detective bureau was vigilant and was able to identify the persons committing them," he said.
Newtown police spokesman Lt. George Sinko said burglaries in Newtown so far this year are running approximately even with last year.
"As far as a spike, we're pretty much running status quo," Sinko said.
Ryan's comment was before two suspects stole more than $100,000 worth of personal property during a home burglary Thursday night.
Boughton refused to back down from his comments, however, noting that Danbury provides services and programs, such as a homeless shelter, that surrounding communities do not.
Boughton also noted that corrections officials will not place released inmates who may present a danger to others in shelters that accept children, so many of them end up in Danbury as a result.
"There is no question that when you put people on the streets who have horrible addiction issues, there is going to be an uptick in petty crimes and burglaries," he said.
Both Fuchs and Danbury Police Chief Alan Baker said burglaries traditionally increase when the economy is bad.
Baker said the number of burglaries in the city had been running below the 2011 levels until the recent increase, which he attributed to "small groups of burglars hitting multiple targets," and a poor economy.
"When people are addicted to controlled substances or alcohol, they do some pretty crazy things," Baker said. "In general, crimes such as burglary and larceny increase when the economy is bad."
The chief also said the arrests of three people Monday as the result of a residential burglary on Middle River Road could eventually clear up many of the open cases.