Cop Of The Week

by Paul Bass | May 16, 2006 3:38 PM | | Comments (2)

Joe Dease was on his way home from solving one stolen-car caper when he saw another suspicious crew driving around Fair Haven, and cracked a second case. Dease came to the task with an extra helping of training: his own experience getting ripped off.

Dease, who’s 34 and has been a city cop for 10 years, just joined the Regional Auto Theft Task Force in February. He’s already proving adept at spotting stolen cars, including that unusual night two weeks ago when he nabbed two car thieves, one in Edgewood and one in Fair Haven, within hours.

Car theft is rampant in town. In April alone, police recovered 75 cars in New Haven that were stolen here, 58 of them found within city limits, another 17 out of town.

Dease didn’t used to take car theft that seriously. Carlean, his wife, wanted him to. They park their 1996 Honda outside their home in Fair Haven, blocks away from where Dease grew up on Lombard Street. In 1999, someone broke into the car and took it for a joyride before police recovered it. Carlean asked that they purchase either The Club or a car alarm.

“I was hardheaded,” Dease recalled in an interview at the police substation on Congress Avenue. He had on the sweatshirt and Steelers cap he wears to blend in undercover on the street. (Why Steelers? “I grew up on Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swan, Mean Joe Greene.”)

“It was a plain Honda, nothing in it, nothing visible,” he remembered reasoning. Why pay extra for security?

He said the same thing the next year, when his wife called to say that someone was breaking into the Honda. She scared him away. Dease rushed to the scene, trailed the would-be thief to Quinnipiac Terrace, and arrested him. But he still didn’t want to splurge on car security.

He changed his mind two yearso ago, when he was about to take his sons to the barber shop, only to find the car missing. It was later found with the left side smashed in. Dease bought a car alarm and The Club.

And when an opening arose on the task force this year, he took it. “I had a personal interest,” he said, “in auto theft.”

Three Teens & A Honda

In training at the University of New Haven, Dease was told something he now knew firsthand: keep a special lookout for 1990s-vintage Hondas. Thieves find them easiest to break into, pry open the ignition, and drive off.

Dease noticed just such a car parked on Norton Street near Edgewood May 3. It was around 10 a.m. Three teen-aged boys were standing by the car.

“One was peering toward Edgewood like a lookout.” A second was pulling a piece of rubber from a front wheel. The third hung back, watching the rubber-puller.

Dease was in an unmarked car. He circled the block three times so he could get a better look. He radioed in the number on the car’s Delaware plates. Yep, someone had reported the car stolen in New Haven.

His repeated trips hadn’t aroused suspicion among the boys. He radioed for backup. By the time another officer arrived, the boys had started walking away, in different directions. Dease would learn later that the teens had had trouble moving the car because it had been damaged. They were trying unsuccessfully to pry off the piece of rubber that was blocking the front wheel.

Dease sent out a description of the kids. Lt. J.D. Smith saw one of them a few blocks away and stopped him. Eventually the kid told the whole story. He even admittted tossing away the screwdriver used in popping open the car; Officer Francisco Ortiz Jr. found it in a nearby puddle.

Back at the car, the main thief ended up returning to the scene while Dease was still there. Dease arrested him.

The Pizza Deliverer’s Toyota

Dease had been looking for a different car on his rounds that night, a red 2005 Toyota. Someone brandishing a gun had carjacked it from a pizza deliveryman on Lawncrest Road in upper Westville.

As he drove home from work around midnight, Dease noticed a late-model red Toyota on Ferry Street at the Grand Avenue light. Something about the two boys in the front out on a joy ride made Dease suspicious. He radioed in to learn if the Toyota was still missing. Yes, it was.

So he radioed for backup and followed the driver to the Hess station at Ferry and State streets. Dease pulled up behind them at Pump 1 in his unmarked car. Just then another officer arrived in a marked car. Seeing him, the driver of the stolen car pulled back out into traffic.

Meanwhile, another Toyota happened to be at the Hess station. The officer in the marked car pulled up alongside that one, and the driver of the stolen car made it back onto State.

Dease contacted the other cop via his police radio to let him know he had the wrong Toyota. They followed the driver onto State. At Grace and State streets, the other cop cut off the driver of the stolen vehicle. The driver pulled into reverse — and slammed right into Dease’s unmarked car, damaging an axle.

Dease made his second arrest of the night. Meanwhile, the car’s owner, notified by the police, arrived on the scene and identified the car. But he couldn’t identify the thief. The driver of the stolen car turned out to be 15 years old. He was charged with larceny in the first degree. The front-seat passenger was taken to headquarters and released, without charges, to his mother.

Before he decided to become a cop, Joe Dease thought he would go into business. After earning his accounting degree from South Carolina State University, he took a job at Mossberg in North Haven while he considered his future. Maybe instead of business, he’d become a teacher, he thought.

The police department was heavily recruiting at the time, expanding the force and branching out to black and Latino officers. Dease’s uncle, Leroy Dease, now a retired detective, suggested he give the police force a shot. Dease became a walking cop in the Hill and never turned back.

“In school, when people give lectures, they always said, ‘Give back,’” Dease recalled. “I said, ‘That’s a way to give back, on the streets of New Haven. I grew up here. I always liked juveniles. They listen to you.”

Now, in his new assignment, Dease “gives back” something concrete. Cars.

(To read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(To suggest an officer to be featured, click here.)







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Posted by: TWIN | August 14, 2006 7:14 AM

JOE KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK ONLY THOSE WHO'VE HAD EXPERIENCE WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF OUR STREETS YOU GO BOY!

Posted by: TWIN | August 14, 2006 7:14 AM

JOE KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK ONLY THOSE WHO'VE HAD EXPERIENCE WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF OUR STREETS YOU GO BOY!

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