A report came across the palm-sized Motorola radio transmitter on Juan Monzon’s left shoulder: An armed robber was in a car speeding east on Whalley Avenue with a pile of stolen CDs. Monzon hopped on his white Cannondale. He had a hunch where the car might be headed.
And Monzon chose the right way to get there.
Monzon, a bicycle cop assigned to the Dixwell neighborhood, concluded a while back that the Cannondale offered the best way—better than a cruiser, better than a walking beat—to carry out the community policing mission he learned at the academy. He concluded that a bike could both keep him in touch with neighbors and enable him to cover ground fast enough to respond to emergencies.
Last Saturday proved Monzon right. Twice. In short order.
First came the CD caper.
It began shortly before 5:30 p.m. in Westville. An armed man allegedly walked into the DJ Outlet on Westerleigh Road. An argument ensued; the owner, who knows him, didn’t want to do business with him. According to the owner, the man pulled out a silver .45, grabbed a stack of compact discs, then hopped into the front passenger seat of a tan four-door Dodge Intrepid. The report went out over the radio. It included the suspect’s name and address.
Monzon, stationed at Dixwell Plaza, heard the report from his shoulder, where he keeps the two-way microphone to his radio for quick access as he patrols the Dixwell neighborhood by bike. (He’s one of about 10 bike patrol cops in New Haven.)
Monzon heard that the suspect lives in Newhallville.
“Since we’re right in the middle, I figure he’ll cut across” the Dixwell neighborhood somewhere around Orchard Street, Monzon recalled thinking. “That’s what they always do.”
Monzon headed down Charles Street to Orchard. No sign of the car.
Then he pedaled down the block, figuring the driver might cut across Henry Street. Sure enough, a tan Intrepid was parked outside Orchard Market. The driver wasn’t in the car. A man in the passenger seat matched the description of the suspect.
Monzon radioed in for back-up. Then he asked the passenger to come out of the car. He was holding a stack of CDs, bootleg R&B and rap compilations.
The passenger gave Monzon his name. It was the same name as the suspect’s. As Monzon handcuffed him, the suspect asked why. Told of the accusation, he claimed, “I paid for those CDs!” He had 26 CDs in all, plus a DVD.
The police never found the gun. The DJ Outlet’s owner came to the scene and made a positive ID. The suspect was charged with robbery in the first degree and larceny in the sixth degree.
Monzon headed back to the plaza. He turned to a report he had heard earlier in the day—another suspect was on the loose.
Monzon, who is 45 and grew up in the Bronx, applied to the New Haven force after serving in the military police, where he enjoyed “helping people out.” He has patrolled Dixwell for the past four years.
“He’s one of my best cops,” said Sgt. Donald Harrison, who supervises the area. “He knows all the players in the neighborhood. A lot of times in lieu of making arrests he can talk to the kids’ parents” to work out a problem.
Monzon said he directs kids working out aggression to Ring One, for instance. He said he carries with him a commitment to community policing he learned in the police academy in 1998 under then-director Kay Codish.
Monzon’s knowledge of neighborhood people paid off last Easter weekend after a 21-year-old man allegedly gunned down 18-year-old Radcliff DeRoche while he was riding his four-wheeler on Dixwell Avenue. As detectives investigated the case, Monzon said, he encountered a man he’d almost arrested years back during a fight at Dixwell Plaza. They joked about that incident. “I’ve got to tell you something,” the man then said, according to Monzon; the man then whispered in his ear the first name and description of the alleged killer. Monzon forward that information to detectives who proceeded to track down the suspect and arrest him.
Two years ago, Monzon approached his then-Dixwell supervisor, Lt. Tony Duff. He said he felt he could cover more ground on bike than he was covering on foot on his beat. Duff OK’d a switch to bike patrol. (“It was his idea. And he’s done a great job,” Duff said.)
“People don’t want to talk to a cruiser. It looks like you’re snitching,” Monzon said. “At least with the bike people talk to you more. You’re out there with them. You’re one of them.”
And unlike when patrolling on foot, he’s been able to speed to Newhallville, say, or other contiguous neighborhoods when another officer sends out a broadcast for help. This past summer he was able to stop a suspect on the Farmington Canal Trail; police in cruisers couldn’t get there as promptly.
Plus, Monzon likes riding. On days off, he’ll pull out his personal mountain bike and head over to the Canal Trail with his wife Stephanie and 14-year-old son Eddie for a family ride.
Last Saturday evening, after police arrested the suspect with the stolen CDs, Monzon headed back to his beat. The department had let officers know about a young teen wanted on a first-degree robbery warrant. Monzon knew the kid. He knew he hangs out at Dixwell Market in the Plaza. So Monzon returned there. Sure enough, the kid was hanging outside. Monzon arrested him with no resistance.
It didn’t make a headline. It did make for a two-for-two day for a community cop.