Dave saw a driver bust through the stop sign by the park. He found his pal Officer Pete a block away, and the two set up a stakeout.
Well, not necessarily a super-duper secret surveillance operation. They stood. They watched. And they took action, to make their neighborhood safer.
If someone wanted to publish a “Dick and Jane” style textbook for how community policing is supposed to work, they could call it “Dave and Pete.”
Dave is David Muniz, a 13-year-old aspiring hotel executive chef. (“Cooking is my passion.”) David lives near Wooster Square’s picturesque park. He likes to ride his bike there and around the neighborhood.
David sees drivers speeding through the area all the time, breezing through stop signs and crosswalks. That bugs him. “They’re risking people’s lives,” he said.
The other day, in the late afternoon, David was at the park’s northeast corner. He saw a driver fly through the stop sign on Wooster Place onto Greene Street.
Down the block Officer Peter Krause was talking to a neighbor who was out picking up trash in the park. David ran up to Officer Pete. He knows him well. Krause lives in Wooster Square. He walks the beat there too. David hangs out with him a couple of times a week during his shift.
“A car didn’t stop!” David reported. He pointed to the driver. He wanted Krause to stop him.
Can’t do it, Krause told him. “I have to see it.”
So he walked with David back to the corner. The pair spent the next hour watching the cars go by. No one raced through the sign again. A whole lot of them “rolled” through—slowing down, but not stopping. Krause pulled them over one by one. He told them they were breaking the law. He issued them warnings, not tickets, and asked them not to do it again.
“He’s a really good officer,” David said later. “He makes sure everybody stops. And to be a fair officer, he makes sure he sees it with his own eyes.”
Krause started patrolling Wooster Square, on foot, in 2002. The city had walking-beat cops throughout town then. Walking beats were the hallmark of the community policing program brought to New Haven in 1990: Cops were taken out of cars, where they chased crimes after they happened. They were assigned to neighborhoods, on foot, so they could get to know neighbors, earn their trust, and solve small problems—like stop-sign running or petty thievery—before they became bigger problems.
Today Krause is the last walking cop assigned to a regular neighborhood beat outside downtown. In February 2009, city officials declared the old-style community policing and walking-beat approach dead. Mayor John DeStefano at the time called walking beats a “passive” form of policing, helpful to a neighbor for only the few seconds that the officer passes by his or her door. (Read about that here.)
Lately some people across town have called for a return to walking beats; Newhallville Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards, for instance, argues that their disappearance partly explains why neighbors don’t trust the cops enough to report information needed to solve murders.
In Wooster Square, David Muniz isn’t the only one feeding Krause information on a regular basis. He’s not the only one who has gotten to know the walking beat cop well, or to credit him with keeping one of the city’s prize neighborhoods safe and livable.
“We all know Pete. We’re grateful for him; we all feel better and safer knowing he’s around,” said Karri Brady. “He takes the neighborhood very seriously. He gives out his cell phone [number].”
Brady revived Wooster Square’s block watch after a rash of muggings last fall. She credited Krause for helping track down the main perpetrators and stopping the attacks. Krause credits neighbors like Brady—they use that cell phone number, and come up to him in person, to tell him about suspicious activity. He in turn gives them advice on preventing crime.
“When you’re a neighborhood cop, when you hear about someone getting robbed or someone’s house being burglarized, it’s personal,” Krause said. “You think: If I had been there maybe it wouldn’t have happened. It’s my responsibility.”
He called himself an old-fashioned guy walking an old-fashioned beat in an old-fashioned neighborhood.
So old-fashioned, he rarely uses a computer. He doesn’t tweet. Karri Brady does. She sends neighborhood news out over Twitter. She uses Google Groups, too. She send crime alerts to 300 people. Krause does get those emails on his department-issued Blackberry.
Mostly he works by word of mouth, phone calls, and what he sees as he walks the neighborhood. Sometimes he’ll pick up what seems like a small piece of information that eventually leads to a solution to a bigger problem.
For instance, one parent told him about a teenager who stole her son’s basketball when the boy visited a housing complex on Artizan Street.
First Krause suggested to the mother that she not have the little boy cross a busy street in traffic to hang out alone at that complex.
Then Krause went to see the teenager. He found him at the complex. The teen’s friends and family were there, too. The teen told Krause that, yes, he had taken the basketball. He was bragging.
“You mean, you didn’t give it back to him?” Krause asked.
“No. I snatched it out of his hand,” the teen responded.
Krause turned to the relatives.
“Does anyone see anything wrong here?” he asked. No one said anything wrong.
Krause gave the teen another chance to polish the story.
“Maybe you’re using the wrong words because you’re trying to be cool,” he suggested.
“No, I snatched it out of his hands.”
Krause said that he felt “in a corner,” that he needed to arrest the teen, because he admitted to a felony.
That was a year ago. The incident was minor enough to keep the teen out of jail.
He kept causing trouble in the neighborhood, Krause said. And when the rash of robberies began, details he received from neighbors and other cops seemed to point to the same teen. It took a while, but eventually police put together enough evidence to charge the teen, among others, with some of the robberies and to put an end to the rash of attacks. Krause said the cops believe the teen was the “ringleader.”
Later this week David and Krause were back at the corner of Wooster Place and Greene Street observing the cars. It was around noon; school was out for spring vacation.
Out of uniform (he works the night shift), Krause, who’s 45 and taught martial arts before joining the force nine years ago, wore a denim shirt unbuttoned and loose, concealing a pair of handcuffs. Also concealed: his department handgun. Even when he’s off-duty, he’s found, he’s still a cop, and sometimes needs the tools of the trade.
In any case, he’s always watching.
“That car right here!” David cried. “He didn’t even slow down!”
Krause said it makes sense to warn stop sign rollers rather than ticket them the first time, in part because drivers don’t even realize sometimes that they’ve failed to stop.
“Some people think they’re stopping,” he said. “They feel the front of the car dip down because they’re pressing the brake.”
Even he does that sometimes when he’s not paying enough attention, he said. That morning, when he was delivering a morning tea to his girlfriend at her job (part of what he calls an old-fashioned romantic routine), he might have inadvertently rolled through a stop sign when no one else was coming. He has a rule for such cases: He said: He gives a pass to the first person he sees doing that when he returns to the beat.
The first one. He’s not letting up on stop sign rollers any more than on muggers, he said, because it all adds up to preserving quality of life in a great neighborhood.
“People are friendly with each other. People say hi” in Wooster Square, he said. You always find neighbors walking dogs or pushing strollers through the park, or doing group clean-ups, planting flowers. They care about the place. A neighborhood walking cop can’t help but care, too.
Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:
• Shafiq Abdussabur
• Maneet Bhagtana
• Scott Branfuhr
• Dennis Burgh
• Sydney Collier
• David Coppola
• Joe Dease
• Milton DeJesus
• Brian Donnelly
• Anthony Duff
• Bertram Etienne
• Paul Finch
• Jeffrey Fletcher
• Renee Forte
• Marco Francia
• William Gargone
• William Gargone & Mike Torre
• Derek Gartner
• Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
• Dan Hartnett
• Ray Hassett
• Robin Higgins
• Ronnell Higgins
• Racheal Inconiglios
• Hilda Kilpatrick
• Amanda Leyda
• Anthony Maio
• Steve McMorris
• Stephanie Redding
• Tony Reyes
• Luis & David Rivera
• Salvador Rodriguez
• Brett Runlett
• David Runlett
• Marcus Tavares
• Martin Tchakirides
• Stephan Torquati
• Gene Trotman Jr.
• Kelly Turner
• John Velleca
• Alan Wenk
• Michael Wuchek
• David Zannelli
• David Zaweski
(To suggest an officer to be featured, contact us here.)