4 “Si"s. 1 “No Puedo”
by Paul Bass | Oct 22, 2012 7:37 am
Posted to: Immigrants, Fair Haven
Dario Ortiz and his family fought off and held onto a violent mugger for the cops. Now hundreds of fellow Fair Haven immigrants want the cops to do more to keep them safe.
Some 250 parishioners, primarily Latino and many of them immigrants, made that pitch directly to Police Chief Dean Esserman Sunday afternoon.
They said crime against immigrants in Fair Haven has jumped in the past two months. They said they need more cops and better-trained 911 operators.
They crowded the basement hall of St. Rose of Lima Church on Blatchley Avenue to hear the Ortiz family’s bloody ordeal and to put Esserman and city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts onstage for a Saul Alinsky-style mass demand session.
“We have been beaten. We have been robbed. They have vandalized our homes. We will not tolerate this any more!” declared one of the event’s organizers, Jeimy Zepeda (pictured) of both St. Rose and a regional activist coalition called CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut).
“They have robbed us not only of our money. They have robbed us of our freedom as well.”
As she spoke, Esserman and Smuts sat on stage next to Dario and Mercedes Ortiz. Standing directly behind them and watching over their shoulders was of a statue of St. Rose of Lima.
Then Zepeda and fellow organizer Cecilio Cuapio posed five questions to Esserman and Smuts. The pair, who were told the questions beforehand, were asked to answer “yes” or “no,” as an organizer translated for the crowd.
The crowd received four “si” answers in responses.
Smuts promised to try to “improve the 911 system for our community and all Spanish speakers in New Haven as quickly as feasible.”
Esserman promised to put another walking cop in Fair Haven. He promised to give Fair Haven’s top cop extra resources when “crime problems arise.” He promised to help the congregation lobby the state to allow more immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses (so they can feel more comfortable bringing cops crime information even if that means having to show identification.; and so they get stopped and ticketed or arrested less often for traffic violations).
The crowd cheered each “si” response.
Esserman’s “no” came with an explanation.
Cuapio had asked him to promise to commit another patrol car to Fair Haven.
“The police chief should always tell the truth, yes?” Esserman began. That drew applause.
“No. No I can’t,” he continued.
“No, no puedo,” came the translation.
“I’m trying to put more officers on foot right now. And we have to choose right now between foot and car. So I have made the choice right now for foot.”
“I’m Going To Kill You”
Before the promise line-up, Dario Ortiz told his story to the crowd.
Ortiz, a 50-year-old Ecuadorean native, lives on Shelter Street. Around 9 p.m. on Sept. 1, he noticed some men loitering outside. He went out to investigate. One of them men jumped him, started hitting him. The man broke Ortiz’s nose, bloodying his face.
Ortiz managed to call 911.
A recording of that call was played for the St. Rose’s crowd Sunday as a picture of Ortiz’s bloodied face appeared on a screen. Ortiz appealed for help—in Spanish. His English is limited, even when he’s not being attacked.
The operator told him she doesn’t speak Spanish. Loud noise could be heard in the background signalling an attack.
Click here to listen to the call.
Ortiz then banged on his front door. His wife Mercedes and 16-year-old son Dario Jr. rushed out to help him. Meanwhile, a friend of the attacker joined in. Mercedes Ortiz Jr., who’s 21, came outside, too. The attacker—who the Ortiz family later learned had been seen on other occasions hitting neighbors and stealing their possessions—punched mom and her daughter, causing bruises and cuts.
The Ortiz family managed to hold onto the main attacker. “I’m going to kill you!” the attacker told them.
Dario Ortiz got back on with the 911 operator. Eventually he got her the address. Police arrived perhaps five minutes later and arrested the attacker.
“I have to say something after hearing that terrible story,” Chief Esserman told Ortiz Sunday. “As a father and as your police chief, I apologize to you.”
Esserman and Ortiz shook hands.
“I hope I would be as brave if I were to fight like you did,” Esserman added.
The 911 call was a focal point for the event’s organizers. They said the city needs to train its operators better to deal with calls from the Latino community.
After the event, the city’s Smuts said he believes that the operator followed departmental guidelines in dealing with the call—but that the incident demonstrated some of the problems that the city needs to address.
Only between 6 and 8 of the department’s about 46 911 operators speak Spanish he said. The department needs more, so that one can always be on call.
Also, the 911 system doesn’t do always do well pinpointing exact locations of calls if they come from cell phones. It can instantly pinpoint locations of land lines. The state is upgrading the mapping system, which New Haven uses, Smuts said.
“This is a challenge that 911 centers around the nation have,” Smuts said.
He added that the event’s organizers called his attention to a separate non-emergency call in which the dispatcher displayed some inappropriate “customer service.” He said he plans to look into that incident.
Tags: immigrants and policing, Dean Esserman Rob Smuts, CONECT, St. Rose of Lima, Dario Ortiz, Jeimy Zepeda
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First I’m sorry that this family have this terrible experience,thing like this happen in a second and there is not much you can do but trying to recover you peace and trust in your neighborhood.
I just wanted to shared my experience of working with the community and why I’m doing it. There are really action we can do beside have these meetings and asked for help.
WE in number can make the difference by being physical involve with creative activities to improve our neighborhoods these actions are CRIME PREVENTION and yes all of you are a lot more that very few bullies and criminals who want to claim Fair Haven as theirs. You all can make the difference with simple action of community work.
This article said 100’s of people come to asked for help, to be active in you area; you will not need more than 5 to 10 people to make you area awarded that you are NOT alone and you care about your families. If some of you are interested I will share what we are doing around our area for the last 7 years and it worked.
Why I’m doing this little activism ? I saw many situations in the past like this with some of my neighbors, call 911 for emergency is way to late and wait too long to make your self aware that you need to speak up. Act! crime prevention will save this traumas to kids and love ones. Father Manship knows me if you want to contact me or live a comment here. You don’t need to be afraid police and more associations will work with all of you to improve your quality of life.
Why isn’t the attackers name given in this article?
[Editor’s note: As a policy we withhold the names of people charged with crimes (as opposed to convicted) unless we get their side or if there’s another compelling reason, such as in the case of a public figure such as a government official.]