By Reginald Johnson
BRIDGEPORT --- Recent murders in this city are a reminder that Bridgeport can still be a violent place, and it’s going to take a lot more than beefed-up law enforcement and a few jobs provided by new retail development to change that fact.
People were shocked when a popular storeowner in the city’s Hollow section was shot for no apparent reason after he turned over cash to two gunmen who entered his store in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, April 11.
Jose Salgado, 57, who ran the store “Sapiao’s Grocery” on Lexington Avenue with his wife Maria for 24 years, was shot after complying with the demands of the robbers. The assailants ran out of the store, jumped into a waiting car and fled.
Days later, police caught up with one man in New Haven and charged him with felony murder. The other suspect was recently caught and is expected to be charged with felony murder as well.
The shooting at Sapiao’s follows by weeks another killing of a store worker in the city’s North End. Hakeem Joseph, 32, a clerk at the T Market on Reservoir Avenue, was shot around 8 a.m. by a gunman dressed in camouflage and wearing a hood. Police have not yet apprehended the man.
The murders jolted local officials who had been feeling good about the city’s progress in slowing violent crime. It is true that the homicide rate for Bridgeport in recent years is sharply lower than what it was 20 and 25 years ago, when drug gangs often turned the city into a daily shooting gallery.
In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the city frequently experienced 4-5 homicides a month; the fatal shooting of Jose Salgado represented the city’s fifth homicide this year.
Nonetheless, the recent killings demonstrate that Bridgeport is still a dangerous place sometimes, and is likely to remain that way, even if the overall rate of crime is reduced. That’s because Bridgeport --- though having some success in redeveloping --- is still largely a poor city, and poverty often breeds crime.