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“Salt & Pepper” Knew Who Was Who
by Thomas MacMillan | Aug 23, 2013 1:41 pm
Posted to: West Hills, West Rock, Cop of the Week
Rookies Elizabeth White and Allyn Wright arrived first at the scene of an attempted pizzeria robbery. When other cops arrived moments later, the duo told them to keep moving to Rock Creek Road. White and Wright had already figured out who did the crime—and where to find him.
Thanks to Officers Wright and White (pictured), the cops beat a pair of teenaged robbers back to their own house. When the two young men arrived, they walked into handcuffs.
Detectives are now working to secure warrants to arrest the pair of teens for six other robberies they’ve been connected to in the Westville area.
The pizzeria robbery arrest was just the latest in a string of incidents in which the rookie cops—known on the beat as “Salt and Pepper”—have combined quick thinking with a deep familiarity with their beat, and come up with a suspect in handcuffs. The names White and Wright, a pairing that sounds like it came from a TV show about buddy cops, have been mentioned frequently by department brass in weekly Compstat meetings at police headquarters.
The brand-new cops have succeeded in doing that by bringing community policing to a brand-new neighborhood: the still-in-progress rebuilt public-housing developments in the shadow of West Rock. They walk the beat, get to know people, earn their trust. That translates into arrests. It also translates into stories with happier endings, like a massive giveaway Thursday of backpacks to kids preparing to start school next week (pictured throughout this story). In a short time, they’ve discovered who is who. And people have come to know and trust them.
“I call them the pied pipers,” said Mario Molano, property manager at the rebuilt Brookside public-housing complex. Not only do White and Wright know all the kids in the project, they’re beloved. The kids follow them around on the beat, Molano said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
Molano said Brookside is now up to 652 residents, 350 of whom are under the age of 16. “The kids ask for them” when they’re not around, Molano said.
White, who’s 26, and Wright, who’s 38, said they were just in the right place at the right time when the call came in last Friday about the pizza robbery. In fact, it seemed for a second that they were standing on top of the robbery.
White and Wright were on their way to an extra-duty job and had stopped of for some dinner—pizza. They were in More Than Pizza, at Blake and Fitch. “A call comes in that More Than Pizza is being robbed,” White recalled.
She and her partner looked around, wondering if they had somehow failed to notice a robbery in progress. As it turned out, More Than Pizza had moved from a previous location down the street at 410 Blake, now known as Pizza Heaven II. That was the pizzeria being robbed.
“We were literally seconds away,” White said. She and Wright raced down the street; they found the robbers had fled the scene.
The pizzeria owner had chased the robbers off after realizing they were holding him up with a pellet gun. Brandishing a rifle, the two masked assailants had entered the restaurant and demanded money from the cash register. An employee called the owner in from a back office. He turned over some money; a robber reached into the owner’s pocket to grab more cash. The other assailant ordered the owner into the back office, where he then demanded more money. The owner retrieved a weapon of his own—and surprised the robber, who fell back, dropping his rifle. The owner grabbed the rifle. He realized it was a pellet gun and chased the robbers out of the restaurant.
The owner didn’t tell White and Wright that whole story at first. He described the robbers. He showed the their weapon. He pointed in the direction they’d fled.
All three pieces of information rang a bell; the cops instantly knew who the suspects were and where to find them.
All the cops in the district had been looking for the pair, who were wanted in connection with six robberies in the last couple of months. The pair had allegedly hit a 7-11, a florist, a gold exchange, and some delivery guys. The older, taller suspect’s name kept coming up. A police dog had tracked several of the robberies to his house, but police still didn’t have enough to arrest him.
“He was just killing the district with these robberies,” White said. She said she and Wright had even been in his house just a few days earlier, on an unrelated incident involving his mom. They were so close, but still couldn’t get him.
The pizzeria owner pointed where the robbers had run. “The direction of travel made sense. It all made sense,” White said.
White and Wright knew the robber would head straight home. By the time cops pulled up on the scene, White and Wright waved them on them to Rock Creek Road, to the taller suspect’s house.
Sure enough, the pair showed up at the house 20 minutes later. They’d stripped off their outer layers to change their appearance, and they were soaking wet from crossing the creek. The pizzeria owner ID’d them, and cops found evidence of both the Pizza Heaven robbery, and, inside the house, the 7-11 robbery.
A “Small Community”
On Thursday afternoon, White and Wright weren’t chasing crooks. They were handing out backpacks loaded with school supplies at the district substation on Valley Street. The pair helped raise about $2,000 to buy back-to-school supplies for local kids.
“We bothered everybody,” said White, who despite her affable demeanor knows how to be persistent when necessary.
White and Wright alone raised about 80 percent of the money for the give-away, said their supervisor, top Westville/West Hills/West Rock cop Sgt. Renee Forte. “They were instrumental. I would have had 300 kids and not enough backpacks.”
On the day of the giveaway, the line of people curled around the substation. White placed backpacks on tots and tykes and exchanged hugs while Wright, more reserved, made sure the pizza was laid out for the kids and their parents. Both cops greeted the dozens of kids by name: “Hi, Dennis!” “Hey, Douglas!”
White and Wright walk the beat in Westville Manor and the new Brookside housing complex, where they’ve gotten to know all the families that live there. They had the advantage of being in the neighborhood even before the neighbors were.
White and Wright, who graduated from the police academy together last October, were assigned to Brookside last winter. The housing complex, which was just rebuilt, had only about 20 people living there at the time, Wright said.
As more and more families have arrived, White and Wright have been there to greet them. “We were there when they moved in,” White said.
By getting in on the ground floor, the pair has developed a deep familiarity with Brookside and Westville Manor, two housing projects in an often forgotten part of the city, tucked away north of West Rock. They’re now experts on the area, which has all-new street names, some of which don’t show up yet on GPS maps.
White said it’s satisfying to hear “Solomon Crossing” or “Moore Drive” or “Catherine Way,” to hear the dispatcher helping other cops navigate the unfamiliar territory that she knows so well. “You kind of feel like that’s your little home.
“We were up there before some of [those] street signs. It was deserted. We were like, ‘What are we doing here?’”
Supervisors promised it would “pick up” as people moved in and the streets filled.
“It sure picked up all right,” White said.
White and Wright are also the go-to experts on the people who live there. Two months ago, police were investigating the knifepoint robbery of a delivery guy. It happened when White and Wright were off duty. (They work evenings.) When they started their next shift, Sgt. Forte asked them for help. The pair heard the description of the suspect and again instantly knew who it was.
“There’s a kid with a very specific look,” overweight, pigeon-toed, White said. “He hangs out in that area on the corner.” Again, it just all made sense; they had logged the hours in the neighborhood to know the guy, and where to find him.
In another recent incident, cops in the district were responding to a call about an ex-boyfriend who had shown up where he wasn’t supposed to be. Rookie officers in training raced to the address, and blew right past the boyfriend. White and Wright knew the guy when they saw him, and pulled over.
“It’s a small community. You know who’s supposed to be there and who’s not supposed to be there,” Wright said. “Just knowing who people are helps us out.”
Salt & Pepper
Not only do White and Wright know the neighbors, the neighbors know them—sometimes by different names. In the spring, when family members of a shooting victim asked for them, White and Wright learned they had a new nickname.
White and Wright responded to a shooting in Westville Manor in March or April, Wright recalled. When they arrived, the victim had been taken to the hospital. They followed and found cops and family members already there. The cops were trying to talk to the family. Family members kept saying, “We’re not going to talk to anybody but Salt and Pepper!”
Wright and White looked around, wondering whom they were talking about.
“It’s you,” said a girl. “That’s what we call you.”
“They ended up talking to us,” Wright said. And since then, they hear the nicknames everywhere on the beat.
Brookside manager Molano attributed White and Wright’s popularity to the fact that they’re on foot, and they’re approachable. “They really do have a commitment to that community.”
“They’re really two amazing people,” Sgt. Forte said. “They get the concept of policing the whole picture. It’s more than just making arrests. It’s about making connections with the community and with the kids especially.”
Sometimes those two sides of the job overlap in unexpected ways. Three weeks ago, White and Wright were hanging out with kids when a call came in, another domestic. They responded and found the suspect, a man, had left. A women from the neighborhood shouted that the guy was getting on a city bus. Wright ran to the pair’s squad car, chased down the bus and pulled it over.
Wright pulled the guy off the bus, creating “quite a spectacle for the kids” who were still hanging out, White said. “They thought it was the funniest thing ever.” The kids cheered and chanted: “Officer Wright! Officer Wright!”
Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:
• Shafiq Abdussabur
• Craig Alston & Billy White Jr.
• James Baker
• Lloyd Barrett
• Manmeet Bhagtana (Colon)
• Paul Bicki
• Paul Bicki (2)
• Sheree Biros
• Scott Branfuhr
• Dennis Burgh
• Anthony Campbell
• Rob Clark & Joe Roberts
• Sydney Collier
• Carlos Conceicao
• Carlos Conceicao (2)
• Carlos Conceicao and Josh Kyle
• David Coppola
• Roy Davis
• Joe Dease
• Milton DeJesus
• Milton DeJesus (2)
• Brian Donnelly
• Anthony Duff
• Robert DuPont
• Jeremie Elliott and Scott Shumway
• Jose Escobar Sr.
• Bertram Ettienne
• Bertram Ettienne (2)
• Martin Feliciano & Lou DeCrescenzo
• Paul Finch
• Jeffrey Fletcher
• Renee Forte
• Marco Francia
• William Gargone
• William Gargone & Mike Torre
• Derek Gartner
• Derek Gartner & Ryan Macuirzynski
• Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
• Dan Hartnett
• Ray Hassett
• Robert Hayden
• Robin Higgins
• Ronnell Higgins
• William Hurley & Eddie Morrone
• Racheal Inconiglios
• Juan Ingles
• Paul Kenney
• Hilda Kilpatrick
• Herb Johnson
• John Kaczor & Alex Morgillo
• Jillian Knox
• Peter Krause
• Peter Krause (2)
• Amanda Leyda
• Rob Levy
• Anthony Maio
• Dana Martin
• Steve McMorris
• Juan Monzon
• Chris Perrone
• Ron Perry
• Joe Pettola
• Diego Quintero and Elvin Rivera
• Stephanie Redding
• Tony Reyes
• David Rivera
• Luis & David Rivera
• Luis Rivera (2)
• Salvador Rodriguez
• Salvador Rodriguez (2)
• Brett Runlett
• David Runlett
• Allen Smith
• Marcus Tavares
• Martin Tchakirides
• David Totino
• Stephan Torquati
• Gene Trotman Jr.
• Kelly Turner
• Lars Vallin (& Xander)
• Dave Vega & Rafael Ramirez
• Earl Reed
• John Velleca
• Manuella Vensel
• Holly Wasilewski
• Holly Wasilewski (2)
• Alan Wenk
• Stephanija VanWilgen
• Matt Williams
• Michael Wuchek
• Michael Wuchek (2)
• David Zannelli
• David Zaweski
Post a Comment
Good old fashioned police service at its finest. Congratulations to Salt and Pepper
I couldn’t be happier for these two officers. I first met these officers when they were riding their patrol bicycles through Edgewood park. I often take my kids fishing there, and this was the first time we’ve ever seen police officers. These two officers took their time to talk to my two kids, and until this day, they still talk about that day. It’s amazing how a few minutes of their time made such an impact on my kids. I showed them this article and they immediately recognized the officers. Two cheers for you two, keep it up!
Real cops. Thank God for their dedication and love of their profession. Both are New Haven residents through and through. Praise and prayers that they stay safe.
So let me get this straight? White and Wright get the bad guys, open up to the community (by speaking with everyone and playing with the children), know their beat extremely well, and raise money for school supplies so almost 300 children are ready for school. That sounds absolutely amazing, great job Westville beat you make New Haven proud, keep it up and be safe. I’m glad that NHI puts out these “cop of the week” stories and lets us and the NHPD bashers know that there are great cops serving the Elm city that put everyone else before themselves. Great job “Salt & Pepper”.