Top Brass High On High Point

by Melissa Bailey | August 16, 2007 9:27 PM | | Comments (12)

IMG_9621.JPGFresh off the plane from North Carolina, New Haven’s top police brass emerged eager to implement innovative community policing ideas they encountered down south — including using community pressure to “bring moral weight to bear” on small-time crooks.

Earlier this week, Police Chief Cisco Ortiz and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts flew down to High Point, NC to learn about new policing techniques that are getting nationwide applause. The pair blogged about their journey for the Independent— click here, here and here for their three dispatches.

Backed by an enthusiastic Mayor John DeStefano, Ortiz and Smuts announced Thursday they intend to add High Point methods to New Haven’s repertoire.

The two towns aren’t at all interchangeable - High Point is more spread out and less populated, with two-thirds of New Haven’s population stretched out over three times as much space. As DeStefano put it at a Thursday press conference, the southern city is “not an urbanized environment” abounding with check-cash and liquor stores.

But the three agreed High Point had some innovative techniques to learn from: Specifically, a community-intervention “call-in” session to give small-time suspects a second chance before locking them away.

The method, described in detail here and here, involves sweeping up a range of low-level criminals involved in selling drugs in a particular geographic zone, inviting them to a “call in.” They sit before a crowd of community members, look at piles of evidence against them, including arrest warrants just waiting to be signed, and make a choice: They can go to jail, or catch a break, with the understanding that, with help from a range of social services, they’ll get on the right path or face maximum jail time if they’re caught again.

Ortiz described the difference between New Haven’s method—sweeping up suspects through the now-disbanded ID-NET, only to see them back on the streets again—and High Point’s method, where 50 percent leave the life of crime.

When New Haven cops recently blitzed the notorious drug zone of Kensington Street, arresting 25 people, officers soon saw the same faces “back on the street,” Ortiz said. In High Point, after an effective “call in” session earlier this week, undercover agents hit the streets, testing to see if they could buy drugs in the area they’d just targeted. They were turned away, Ortiz said.

The main new element in High Point’s method, according to Smuts? “Building the case and not pulling the trigger”—allowing suspects a second chance. The second key element: “They bring the moral weight of the community to bear” on the suspects sitting in the room. That “moral authority” - a crowd of neighbors, family, and friends steering the suspect on the right path—is a powerful deterrent.

How would High Point’s method translate into New Haven? “It wouldn’t work in every neighborhood,” Ortiz said. Cops couldn’t focus on a large swath of land with 1,500 people, as High Point cops do. They’d focus on a block, or half a block—somewhere where someone’s “trying to build a reputation” as a dealer. They’d solicit help from the State’s Attorney, build a case for months, then collect a group of low-level criminals involved in drug trafficking. New Haven’s abundance of social services would make it a good match, reckoned the chief.

The call-in method would “fit very well in our toolbox of initiatives,” Smuts concluded.

IMG_9614.JPGWould it tackle New Haven’s recent pattern of younger kids using guns, in armed robberies and to settle scores? DeStefano (pictured) noted the problems in New Haven are different. But he praised “inclusion of families” in steering kids away from crime. And Ortiz said the problems are related—“drug problems drive half of my crime.”

Ortiz is applying for a $150,000 grant to fund the problem, but he maintained: “We can do this with existing resources and we will.”

Meanwhile, DeStefano stressed the importance of bringing in new recruits: “you can’t do community policing if you don’t have enough bodies.” He praised the new initiative, but said New Haven still has “lots of things to do. We’re not going to lose sight of what this department is about—patrol officers being out there, on the street, getting to know people.”







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Posted by: on whalley | August 17, 2007 12:50 PM

Okay, I just saw an NHPD officer on an NHPD Segway riding on York street.

I usually am the first person to complain about the police, taxes and take a stand for personal secession if you will but this sight infused me with a rage I have had not yet experienced. How much did this cost? How much will this continue to cost? Will the ability to travel 20 or so miles on a battery charge for thousands of dollars prove more efficient than a fit cop on a bike that cost $600 riding as far and as fast as he pleases?

I thought I have seen evil in government before but this time I saw it joyfully zooming down the street and spinning in circles while I ate lettuce.

This taxation is not simply unjustified but has become unabashedly criminal.

Posted by: Wait a second | August 17, 2007 1:15 PM

On Whalley -- what are you talking about? Was the officer doing something wrong or just on patrol using a mode of transportation you don't like?

Segways may be more expensive than sneakers or bikes but are less expensive than horses, motorcycles or cars -- all used regularly by NHPD.

I don't see a reason to be upset about the means of transportation. The segways seem especially useful (like horses) whenever there are a group of people so the officer can see above people's heads a bit (which does not happen on a bike or walking). They also allow the officer to cover a beat area a little faster while still having many of the advantages of walking a beat.

Lots of things to be upset about, an officer doing his/her job does not seem to be one of those.

Posted by: on whalley | August 17, 2007 1:54 PM

Segway's allow an officer to see above a crowd? By what 6 inches? If police welfare is your issue they offer no protection from being clotheslined or just pulled by their shirt off the back.

My beef is that it is a colossally unnecessary expense.

BTW, horses cost just about the same if not less in some cases. These machines retail at around $5,000. Don't tell me you honestly believe the city is shopping around for the best deal on these things? And no, Federal grants do not help. That too, lest we forget, is OUR money. My money. Your money. That they have forcibly taken from us.

I stand by my disgust. Disgust with the entire system from the unions to the taxes to the mayor to the tyrannical and unjust fed. This is all nothing more than a pyramid scheme designed to impoverish and enslave.

Seeing a useless member of the NHPD roll around care free at my expense ruined an otherwise fine day and has set the weekend up to be very uncomfortable. Maybe someday when I am in need of police assistance they will be so kind as to surround my home and wait around for 20 minutes while my family burns and suffocates like the Petits entering only once the criminals have fled and the only work left if for EMT's to collect our corpses.

This city is making me violently ill more so with each passing day. Knowing there is no where to run and no one to stand with against it makes it all slightly less bearable.

Posted by: Rob Smuts | August 17, 2007 2:07 PM

The officer on the Segway would have been a Yale Police Officer, not NHPD. The YPD has purchased Segways and are now using them - currently the NHPD does not have any.

Posted by: Bill Saunders | August 17, 2007 3:00 PM

I saw a centurion on a Segway the other day roll past me while drinking coffee on chapel street. Like OW, it struck me as a little over the top. I wanted to talk to the centurion and find out the cost, quantities, etc.

Well, lo and behold, on my walk back home, I came across said Segway, leaning against a newspaper kiosk on the side of the Dunkin Donuts on Park Street. In the front of Dunkin Donuts was parked a police motorcycle and squad car. They were not New Haven Police, however. They were Yale Police.

Which brings me back to my itching questions:

What is the partnership between YPD and NHPD all about? They are not on city payroll, yet they patrol our streets. The YPD website says they report all crimes to NHPD per FBI requirements, yet NHPD doesn't report these stats. Is this another level of obfuscation? How many Yale Police are there? Do we need more recruits on the city payroll, or does Cisco need to truly partner with YPD?

And finally, has anybody seen the HUGE NEW Yale Police Department behind Grove Street Cemetery?

Posted by: Sierra Di | August 17, 2007 8:31 PM

On Whalley,

As a fellow tax payer, I have shared your frustrations many a time; we all have our own. We can provide input to the PD but we can not tell the NHPD how to do their job on a tactical day to day basis.

Choice of mode of transportation, arsenal, etc... is not a simple issue. Some of us know because we have looked into those, (and many others), issues and we have learned the "why" the variety of tool at the disposition of the NHPD is essential, and currently -in this climate of budgetary austerity- not enough.

I will reiterate e recommendation I made to you, (not singularly, but as a group expressing skepticism), on a previous occasion: Sign up, question, challenge and learn. (See my previous answer to your comments here: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2007/07/cpa_graduates_o.php )

The place is the NHPD Citizen's Academy. Take me up on it and you will learn the "under the cover nuts & bolts" of policing. Better yet you can continue to learn on your own, (curriculum abounds in the region: UNH, Yale, SCSU and then some more).

I hope you do and we see more useful contribution(s) from you the next time you are enjoying your lettuce downtown.

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 17, 2007 8:51 PM

I have three words for my comment...

Illusion
Deception
and
deja vu

Make of it what you will. Maybe this is a genuine attempt to find a solution to our cities crime problem...which this blog ...for the first time, has the chief admitting to, without throwing out stat's of how good our crime rate is. But comments that were made after the trip lead me to belive (which I could be wrong) that is was not something we can use in our city. And maybe I have my blinders on lately, but I did not here about the here and now. What are we doing with the officers here and now...what are we doing with the crime here and now.

It is voting time and I want more than illusions deception and side steping. I want some answers.

ok I am a bit grouchy but this is how I feel about at this present time.

What are your thoughts??

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 17, 2007 9:01 PM

PS in the I do realize this is not in just New Haven it is wide spread. But I live here and I love this city. So I have every reason to be upset. And the new recruits will be a help but my understanding is that there will only be what 2 new cops per district. We need to motivate the ones we have or these two new cops per district will not help.

PSs I heard the narc squad may be back. Thank God! Just please put the cops you know really care on it! Because the drug dealing is what is ruining this city!

Posted by: GaryD | August 17, 2007 10:08 PM

zzoom zzoom...gadgets and trips when we need cops on the beat, on bike, talking to people and making connections. Just do it. oh well...I will report some good news though - I came through the hill this afternoon on Kimberly Ave and actually saw a cop on a bike! It was great...very visible. Is there hope?

Posted by: DAFeder | August 22, 2007 5:59 PM

Help officers see above a crowd? Cost effective? Perfect solution -- stilts!

What do you think, ON WHALLEY -- will it seem better if the guy "forcibly taking" your money is dressed as Bozo? He could collect taxes in a little hat.

David

Posted by: K [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 22, 2007 10:52 PM

Umm...by the "HUGE NEW Yale Police Department behind Grove Street Cemetery", do you mean the Yale-Dixwell community center? That entire building is not YPD. I believe they actually have a very small section of it.

Posted by: Bruce | August 24, 2007 8:54 AM

Why don't we just hire away High Point's police chief?

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