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Canine Cop Catches Copper Crook

by Paul Bass | Dec 5, 2013 4:31 pm

(7) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes, Dwight

Thomas MacMillan Photo Loud tapping woke up Yvette Redding in the middle of the night. The water in the faucet stopped running. A crash followed.

Before long, Xander the police pooch swung into action.

Now police hope they have found two men responsible for at least some, if not most, of 12 recent copper-thefts in the neighborhood.

Xander’s collar occurred last week in the basement of a three-story house on Sherman Avenue between Edgewood Avenue and Maple Street.

Yvette Redding owns the house. She was asleep on the third floor around 1:45 a.m. when “I heard real loud tapping,” she said.

Redding, who’s 50 years old, went to check the empty second-floor apartment, which she is in the process of renovating. No sign of anyone there. Same on the first floor.

She woke up her niece, who also lives in the house. They checked the hallway. Nothing.

Then came a crash. “That’s how it sounded once when the pipes burst,” she said. A second crash came.

“We need to call the police,” Redding’s niece concluded. So they did.

Meanwhile, Redding checked the water in the bathroom. It wasn’t running.

Numerous officers arrived in the house. They had Redding and her niece stand outside; Redding informed them that her daughter and grandchild were asleep upstairs, so an officer checked on them.

Thomas MacMillan Photo One of the officers on the scene was Lars Vallin, who patrols with his trained police dog Xander. (They’re pictured at left. Read about some of their adventures here.)

The noises were traced to the basement. Vallin called down the stairs.

“Anyone inside this home, call out now or the dog will be released,” Vallin declared. “When the dog finds you, he will bite you as he is searching loose.”

No one responded. Vallin released Xander.

Xander sniffed around the basement. He came upon a 41-yearold New Haven man hiding in an unfinished corner of the basement. Xander “grabbed hold of [the man’s] left forearm and began pulling him from his hiding spot,” Vallin later wrote in an incident report.

The man refused to surrender, according to Vallin. So Vallin called Xander off the suspect. When the man still refused to surrender, Officer Chris Casela tased him one time. Then officers arrested the man, who has a history of burglary and larceny and weapons convictions. He was charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal mischief, and third-degree larceny. (He is being held on $50,000 bond and has yet to enter a plea. His next scheduled court date is Dec. 11.)

After the officers had the man in custody, a second man stepped out from under a hiding spot under the stairs. Please don’t do to me what you just did to him, the 27-year-old New Haven man asked the officers. They arrested him, without incident, on the same charges.

Police found a pile of copper pipes along with a pipe-cutter in the basement.

“They cut every pipe down there,” Yvette Redding said later. She said replacing them will cost an estimated $3,000 to $4,000. Her homeowner’s insurance will cover most of the cost, she said. She plans to replace the copper with PVC pipes.

“It was scary,” Redding said of the whole episode.

Top Dwight cop Sgt. Stephan Torquati said copper thieves have recently hit about a dozen homes in the surrounding area. Most of the buildings are abandoned or under renovation, he said, but a couple, like Redding’s home, were occupied.

He said the arrested pair are suspected of participating in at least some of those other thefts.

“It’s not as sexy as a shooting,” but copper theft can really set victims back financially, Torquati observed. Plus it inconveniences them in the short term when they have no running water.

When you factor in the cost not just of replacing copper pipes but hiring plumbers and fixing walls, these thefts can set some victims back $10,000 or more, according to Sgt. Robert Lawlor Jr., head of the police department’s robbery and burglary unit.

“They really tear houses apart when they’re stealing” pipes, Lawlor said. Copper thieves hitting the same house twice recently in the Hill neighborhood started a fire each time when they were cutting the pipes.

“It is a problem for us this year. There’s a lot of it,” Lawlor said of the copper thefts. “Unless you catch people in the act like they did, it’s almost impossible to prove where they got the copper from. Even if you stand outside Alderman-Dow and see a guy pushing a cart with it, it’s impossible to say where it came from.”

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posted by: robn on December 5, 2013  5:53pm

Expression of the week:
“Xander’s collar”

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on December 6, 2013  12:22am

Will this count as a “home invasion,” because people were home when the burglars entered?  Or does there have to be a direct confrontation with the resident, and violence or a threat of violence, for the crime to be classified as a home invasion?

posted by: bearblue63 on December 6, 2013  2:19am

Hi Gretchen, I am the homeowner mentioned in the article. I asked the officers responding that exact question and the answer is no, they sing be charged with home invasion because they only went as far as the 2nd floor before entering the basement and cutting all of my plumbing. I wish the fact that we were home and frightened at the time could be cause fora of home invasion. We were home and it was invaded.  I also want to mention that I’m having the copper plumbing replaced with plastic PVC in hopes of discouraging future attempts to steal our plumbing.

posted by: 179NOMORE on December 6, 2013  9:29am

Sounds like a good job by Xander and his human partner Vallin.  Congrats to both of them.

posted by: robn on December 6, 2013  9:59am


PVC is appropriate for waste pipe, sometimes cold potable water supply, and is inappropriate for hot water. You should ring the building department to confirm with them about what’s approved for use in New Haven.

posted by: Yaakov on December 6, 2013  10:11am


bearblue63 is probably refering to PEX pipe. Cheaper to install and not worth anything to lowlifes like these.

posted by: bearblue63 on December 6, 2013  10:18am

My mistake, Yaakov is correct!

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