Police in Conn. Chase Outbreak of Cockfighting

Keith O’Brien, Boston Globe, March 16, 2009

Waterbury, Conn.–{snip}

“It’s pretty much the same thing every time,” said John Connelly, the local prosecutor. “There’s liquor sold, bets taken. The police confiscate the money. The money gets forfeited to the state–that’s pretty automatic. And birds end up being euthanized. You talk to the cops who go in there. It’s a bloody mess. There are dead birds. Lots of blood.”

Cockfight raids are relatively rare, especially in New England. According to unofficial figures compiled by the Humane Society of the United States, there were about 100 busts for cockfighting nationwide last year, none in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Maine.

But since 2005, police near Hartford have made at least five major cockfighting busts, three of them in Waterbury. Counting the Feb. 28 raid at the garage, Waterbury police have now arrested about 80 people in connection with cockfighting in the past four years, seizing more than 100 roosters and $88,000.

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Lieutenant Christopher Corbett, supervisor of the Waterbury police detective bureau, said he’s not sure. Maybe, he said, the recent busts are the result of increased vigilance. {snip}

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“Almost all of them are from out of town, which is a bigger concern for me because how do they find out about it?” asked J. Paul Vance Jr., president of Waterbury’s Board of Aldermen. “How is it being advertised? And how do we shut these people down?”

Perhaps more important than Waterbury’s geography are its demographics. The city’s population, about 108,000, has remained stagnant for nearly 50 years as the brass industry and other manufacturers have shut down. Yet since 1970, Waterbury’s Hispanic population has grown nearly eightfold, according to US Census data, from around 3,900 to nearly 30,000.

Hispanics now account for more than one-fourth of the city’s population. The vast majority of them hail from Puerto Rico, where cockfighting is legal. That more than anything might explain what’s happening, said Alderman Albert Negron, whose father moved from Puerto Rico to Connecticut in the 1960s. Most of the people arrested in the raids have been Hispanic.

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