On New Turf, Officer Tyson Gathers Intel
by Thomas MacMillan | Apr 25, 2012 11:30 am
Posted to: Cedar Hill
On his first day as a walking-beat cop in Cedar Hill, Charles Tyson set about learning the lay of the land, including figuring out which teenagers can leap over chain-link fences.
In the process of making new friends, Officer Tyson also picked up information that might come in handy later if he finds himself chasing troublemakers through the neighborhood. For the same reason, it’ll be good to know which backyards on Ridge Street end in sheer drops.
Tyson took note of that too, as he strolled Tuesday through the several streets of Cedar Hill, an area where he’ll be spending nearly all his working hours from now on.
Tyson started getting to know people young and old and compiling an up-close view of his new terrain Tuesday on his first day on the beat in a neighborhood that has long clamored for its own walking cop. He also reconnected with a high school acquaintance whose life seems to have taken a different path from his.
Tyson is the latest walking-beat cop to hit the streets, part of the police department’s return to dedicated full-time neighborhood foot patrols and a broader return to community policing under Chief Dean Esserman.
Tyson has been assigned to Cedar Hill, an often-forgotten pocket of seven streets (pictured) cut off from East Rock and Fair Haven by I-91 and East Rock Park.
On Tuesday, Tyson ambled through the little neighborhood, learning names, greeting neighbors, scoping trouble spots, seeing which already-familiar faces to keep an eye out for, and otherwise picking up the thousands of pieces of information that make a neighborhood cop an effective crime-fighter.
For the 38-year-old New Haven native, hitting the block on foot marks a return to his early days on the force. Six years ago, shortly after he graduated from the academy, he worked as a walking beat cop around Rosette Street in the Hill. Tyson recalled a process of about a year and a half of getting to know the neighborhood, earning trust, and building relationships. By the end, families were reclaiming the streets, brooms in hand; children were playing outside without fear.
Tyson said he plans to tackle Cedar Hill the same way. “My goal is just to stay visible, stay seen. Establish relationships.”
“It takes a while for people to warm up to you,” Tyson said, walking down May Street towards Cedar Hill Avenue at about 1:20 p.m. Eventually people start telling you things, he said. “You go from what you get from people. It builds from there.”
Already, Tyson (pictured) had identified hot spots for loitering and potential drug activity: along the two blocks of Cedar Hill Avenue and on State Street between May Street and Warren Place. The other main neighborhood problem is dirt-biking, Tyson said.
Tyson stood on the corner for a while, then walked north on Cedar Hill Avenue.
“You can’t stand on the corner!” called out a man in a Yankees hat, standing with a handful of people around a car.
“You going to ticket me?” Tyson asked.
“Yeah,” the man said, patting his pockets. “I don’t have my ticket book on me.”
“Have a good day!” called out a woman sitting in the car. The woman, named Dorothy Dove, later said she was happy to see a beat cop walking Cedar Hill. “It’s safer for everybody around here. I think it’s A-OK.”
What’s Anthony Up To?
Tyson continued to walk, keeping a sharp and suspicious eye on everything he passed by: The car with tinted windows leaking rap music into the air at the corner of Rock and View Streets. The house with the curtains drawn—a drug house, he’d been told.
He strolled to the corner of State and Warren Place, where people have been known to loiter outside an alleged illegal rooming house. A man in the doorway of the corner store told him the sidewalk isn’t usually so empty.
“It’s the weather,” Tyson told him. It couldn’t be the new cop watching what’s going on.
A guy in baggy Levi’s and a hoodie walked by, his thinning hair shaved to the scalp. He greeted Tyson warmly. Tyson later said he knew the man, Anthony, from high school at Wilbur Cross.
It wasn’t the last time he’d see him that afternoon.
Just a short time later, at 2:10 p.m., Tyson was holding down the corner of Grace Street and Cedar Hill Avenue when Anthony appeared again. He disembarked from a car with several other people in it, just before the driver pulled an ungraceful U-turn in the middle of the intersection.
Anthony offered another jovial greeting, stumbling over a tree-root-lifted sidewalk. Tyson responded politely with quiet reserve. He watched Anthony as he walked away.
Half an hour later: Anthony again. He popped out of the corner store at Warren and State.
“I’m going out of my mind right now,” Anthony said, apropos of nothing.
“He’s not just wandering around,” Tyson said after Anthony passed by. Anthony was up to something. “It’s obvious.”
Having grown up in town, Tyson knows a fair share of New Haveners. He said he has no problem busting people with whom he went to high school, if the need arises. “They know right from wrong.”
Over the course of the afternoon, Tyson kept returning to the corner of May and Cedar Hill, the neighborhood’s central crossroads. He picked up tidbits of information there, along with some kudos from passersby.
Shellick Douglas, chatting with someone in a gray SUV, welcomed having a cop around.
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on around here,” said a woman waiting for the school bus to deliver her daughter. She gave her name only as “L.”
A boy on an electric mini-bike rolled up. He marveled at the news that Tyson will walk the neighborhood every day from now on. “Ain’t going to be no dirt bikes around here,” he said.
Dirt bikers come flying down the street, L said. “I had to curse one out the other day” when he almost ran over her daughter, she said.
From L, Tyson learned that a prostitute has been hanging out. L didn’t offer any specific information, though. That’s often the way it is, Tyson later said. People might resent the crime they see in the neighborhood, but they’re still often friendly with the perpetrators, their neighbors. Sometimes people will tell you a little something, not enough to work with by itself. A walking cop accumulates information bit by bit.
“It’s going to take time,” he said.
Jeanette Coe pulled up in a Dodge minivan. She said she’s seen a change already on Tyson’s first day. “You don’t see all those guys standing out on State Street.”
“It’s just nice seeing a policeman on the beat,” she said.
“People like to see a cop in the neighborhood,” Tyson agreed.
“I really don’t care,” the boy on the bike said about the new neighborhood cop. “I don’t do nothing.”
Tyson asked his name.
“Milly,” replied the boy, who said he was 14.
“A street name,” Tyson said later, making a mental note.
A Good Answer
Tyson strolled to View Street, where L said she had seen a video camera up in a tree. Paranoia? No, there it was, trained on a garage at the corner of Warren Place, with a cable running back to a house nearby.
“What’s so special about that garage that he’s gotta keep it surveilled?” Tyson murmured. More intel.
At the corner of View and Rock streets, Tyson found two teens practicing back flips off a slide at the playground. Anton Brown, 17, said he’s been doing flips since Feb. 14, 2011. His girl dumped him that Valentine’s Day. So he and his brother decided to learn to flip—part of the getting-over-her process.
Jordan Rudel (pictured), 15, had just landed his first flip that day, under Anton’s tutelage.
Brown, showing off, offered to flip off a bench over a fence. Then he leaped cleanly over a hip-high fence.
“So I know not to chase you,” Tyson said.
“I’m not going to give you reason to chase me!” Anton said.
“That’s a good answer,” Tyson said.
“I’m going to just sit like this,” Anton said, planting himself faux-meekly on the slide. “With my tail between my legs.”
“That’s a good answer,” Tyson repeated.
Back at May Street and Cedar Hill Avenue, Tyson decided he might take a break to eat his lunch: Almonds. He said he’s trying to get in shape in anticipation of a summer spent running after trouble in Cedar Hill. “The neighborhood Olympics.”
“At this point, it looks OK,” he said, scanning the block with a wary eye. “But I know it’s going to pick up.”
He spotted two men who had been sitting in a parked pick-up for some time. He walked over to take a closer look.
Related stories on new walking-beat cops:
• “Ghost” Trail Leads To Dirt Bikers (West River)
• Fair Haven’s Walking Cops Follow Drug Trail
• Dear Abby—Er, Officer Mark (The Hill)
• Walking Cops Check In On The Champ (Dixwell)
• The People Talk, The Cops Walk
• Wynne & Benedetto Start Walking The Beat (Downtown)
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ohhh snapppppppp YOU ALL KNOW WHAT I AM DOING!!!!
OH YA!!!! THIS IS THE BEST NEWS WE HAVE HAD IN A VERY LONG TIME!!!
one more because I am that happy
Cedar’s doing the happy dance. He sounds like the right guy for the gig too. The back flippers are amazing. If I ever need to get over my girl, I’ll know who to call. NOT!
i believe the camera on view st pointed at the garage belongs to the landscaper who lives on the corner of ridge st the garage has been broken in too a few times…..on an other note its is good to see a beat patrol again i havent seen one arround since charlie gargano and joe witkowski