As usual, David Zaweski was paying attention. He spotted a fishy license plate — and eventually discovered a “mini-drug factory.”
On paper, it was just another drug bust. It took some heroin off the streets. Maybe cleared a dealer out of the Quinnipiac Meadows neighborhood for a while.
In practice, it was an example of how David Zaweski does his job, according to his supervisor, Lt. Jeff Hoffman: He notices details. He takes initiative. And he’s thorough.
Hoffman teamed Zaweski with fellow officer Roy Davis in February, when Hoffman took over District 9 on New Haven’s east side. The pair has been piling up narcotics arrest in a “ripe” zone, where neighbors had complained about unchecked dealing, Hoffman said. They made 30 busts there in the first month alone.
Zaweski, 28, known as “Z-Man” among his colleagues, has also been proactive in referring youngsters to the Yale Child Study Center and handling domestic violence cases, Hoffman said. Plus, his paperwork comes in unusually clean and detailed, a vital part of making cases. “I’m picky with reports,” Hoffman said. He often hands them back to his cops for rewrites. His other cops. Rarely Zaweski.
An example of what Hoffman calls Zaweski’s quality “proactive policing” occurred last week, in the case of the fishy license plate.
It was less than an hour into Zaweski’s 3-11 p.m. shift. He was in his car near the New Haven-North Haven border, leaving a domestic case. He noticed a car parked improperly parked, blocking part of a lane on Cross Street, off Middletown Avenue and near the entrance to an apartment complex that has had crime problems.
Zaweski decided to stop and take a look. His partner Davis followed. (They were driving separate cars that day; they usually patrol in one vehicle.)
A man was in the driver’s seat of the car, with two female passengers. The engine was running.
On the way to talk to him, Zaweski noticed the dealer’s plate on the back of the car looked odd. He checked it out. “It ends up being a magnet. From a distance it looks real.” Up close, it was flat, an obvious fake.
He asked the driver about it.
“He said he had just purchased the car. He said his friend gave it to him.”
Since he joined the force six years ago straight out of the University of Mary Washington, where he studied business, Zaweski has learned to follow up on small motor vehicle infractions. “Usually when there’s something wrong with the car in the first place,” he said, “there’s a reason behind it.”
He asked to see the driver’s license. The driver produced a red Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID card instead.
What happened to your license? Zaweski asked. Was it suspended? The driver said it was.
Zaweski and Brown asked him to come out so they could pat him down.
“As he exits, I see in plain view, in the driver’s door, sticking out of the counsole, there was a clear sandwich baggie. Inside it had smaller baggies, which resembled the way heroin is packed — wrapped, really thin, in wax paper.”
The cops handcuffed the driver and seated him in Zaweski’s car. He offered no resistance. The officers searched the car.
In the back they found a black bag with small compartments. The contents added up to “a mini-drug factory,” Zaweski said: 82 bags of what would test positive as heroin; a baggie of powder cocaine; 13 codeine pills (“We’re seeing more controlled-substance painkillers in pill form” being sold on the street these days); a small blender; an electronic scale; two plastic siphons; and “a couple hundred more plastic wax baggies.”
Then Zaweski ran the driver’s name and learned he was wanted on two warrants, including one for risk of injury to a minor, strangulation in the third degree, and assault.
The 27-year-old driver, along with his 41-year-old and 19-year-old female passengers, were arrested on a total of 18 charges including operating a drug factory, possession of narcotics with Intent to sell, and possession of narcotics near a school or housing complex.
The Big Picture
Zaweski, who grew up on Long Island, was inspired to apply to the New Haven force in part by his uncle, Capt. Steve Verrelli, who recently retired as the head of the city’s patrol unit.
Revisiting the drug-factory arrest over a cup of iced tea, Zaweski was asked if he thought the busts like the ones he’s piling up are the most effective way to stop the drug trade.
As an officer on the beat, he said, “You can’t really look at the big picture like that. You have to work on each case one at a time. Hopefully you can slow it down a little bit” in an area.
He didn’t hesitate when asked if he thinks drugs should be legalized and the issue dealt with as a health problem, not a crime. No way, he said.
Drug-dealing “leads to more crime. It brings people into a neighborhood who usually wouldn’t be there” and who commit offenses because they’re “desperate for money,” he said. In a case like last week’s bust, a cop with a keen eye did what neighbors beg cops to do — offer some relief from drug dealers in their midst.
Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:
‚Ä¢ Shafiq Abdussabur
‚Ä¢ Dennis Burgh
‚Ä¢ Sydney Collier
‚Ä¢ David Coppola
‚Ä¢ Joe Dease
‚Ä¢ Brian Donnelly
‚Ä¢ Anthony Duff
‚Ä¢ Bertram Etienne
‚Ä¢ Jeffrey Fletcher
‚Ä¢ Renee Forte
‚Ä¢ William Gargone & Mike Torre
‚Ä¢ Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
‚Ä¢ Dan Hartnett
‚Ä¢ Ray Hassett
‚Ä¢ Ronnell Higgins
‚Ä¢ Racheal Inconiglios
‚Ä¢ Hilda Kilpatrick
‚Ä¢ Anthony Maio
‚Ä¢ Steve McMorris
‚Ä¢ Stephanie Redding
‚Ä¢ Tony Reyes
‚Ä¢ Luis & David Rivera
‚Ä¢ Salvador Rodriguez
‚Ä¢ Brett Runlett
‚Ä¢ David Runlett
‚Ä¢ Marcus Tavares
‚Ä¢ Martin Tchakirides
‚Ä¢ Stephan Torquati
‚Ä¢ Kelly Turner
‚Ä¢ Alan Wenk
‚Ä¢ Michael Wuchek
(To suggest an officer to be featured, contact us here.)