Ron Perry knew East Rock had suffered a rash of burglaries. He knew he’d never seen the man on the Livingston Street porch before. He also knew that package in his hand didn’t look like it belonged there.
He stopped to talk to the man. The man’s story didn’t add up.
It turned out the man had allegedly told a similar story before he made off with another tools at another East Rock home. By the end of the encounter Perry arrested the man for that previous burglary, and may have stopped another burglary in process.
That evening Perry received an ovation at a neighborhood meeting. (“Cop of the week!” exclaimed one neighbor.) It was just the latest applause for a cop who started walking the beat four and a half months ago and become as much a neighborhood fixture as joggers and stroller-pushing grad students populating East Rock’s streets.
Over that time he has made a point of greeting people all day.
“I don’t walk past a person without at least saying hello,” Perry said. “That’s how I was raised—to say, ‘Good morning,’ ‘Hello’ to everybody.”
Perry had never previously said hello to the 42-year-old man walking north on Livingston Street Monday afternoon with a black hoodie over his shoulders. He figured it was time to do so.
Work? Or “Opportunity”?
It was around 1:30 p.m. Perry had just finished walking a stretch of his beat on residential streets west of Orange Street. He got into his patrol car on Lawrence Street near the corner of Livingston.
Through his rear-view mirror, he saw the man walking.
Though he didn’t recognize the man, he recognized the m.o. The man was looking into yards. “Kind of like a cop,” Perry said. “What I’d be doing wearing a uniform.”
In fact, Perry makes a point to check out yards as he walks his beat, a full 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift of physical exercise. Besides introducing him to the neighborhood, the beat has enabled him to shed 13 pounds. Along the way he makes mental notes of potential hiding places and escape routes, noting whether homes undergoing construction (a lot of that’s going on in East Rock) show signs of break-ins.
Perry honed that practice while working in the department’s detective division, where he was assigned before returning to patrol for the East Rock walking beat. He worked burglaries, then homicides. In the burglary unit, he learned to take note of “anything that might entice people with bad intentions.”
Ten minutes before getting into his car on Lawrence Street Monday, he had noticed one such “anything” on a Livingston Street front porch half-concealed by a tall bush: a brown UPS-type mailed package.
After seeing the man with the hoodie, Perry pulled his cruiser onto Livingston. He got out. The man had vanished.
Then Perry looked at the front porch he’d noticed earlier. He saw the man standing behind the bush, holding the brown package.
Perry walked toward the porch. The man moved to the front door and started knocking.
“Are you lost?” Perry remembered asking him. “Are you looking for someone?”
“I’m looking for work,” the man responded.
“What kind of work do you do?”
“I cut hedges,” the man said. He told Perry he had a felony record, which made finding work difficult.
To Perry, the story didn’t add up. Several houses within a block had contractors doing work. The man could have stopped at any of them to inquire about a job if he were truly seeking employment. “He wasn’t looking for a job,” Perry concluded. “He was looking for an opportunity.”
Perry checked the man’s ID. He ran the name on his computer and learned he had an outstanding warrant on burglary, larceny, and criminal trespass charges. The charges stemmed from a burglary on Canner Street, one of a recent rash of neighborhood jobs. The man told people in the area that day that he was ... looking for work.
Perry arrested him on the outstanding charges as well as for trespassing on Livingston Street.
From Stevens To E. Rock
Perry, who’s 46, always wanted to be a cop, he said. He got the bug from his late grandfather, Willie D. Perry. His grandfather worked as a security officer at Wesleyan University as Ron was growing up in Middletown. His grandfather helped raise him. Today, Perry keeps his grandfather’s photo (pictured) in his vest pocket as he walks the beat.
“I learned my work ethic,” Perry said. An uncle who was like an older brother, Gary Lewis, became a state trooper. He too, influenced Perry.
Perry didn’t become a cop right away. He earned a degree in sociology and criminal justice at Central Connecticut State University. Then he moved to Boston to become a probation officer, while also doing graduate work in criminology. He moved back to Connecticut and made the cut for a New Haven police officer’s position 12 years ago.
He’s walked a beat before, on Stevens Street in the Hill.
East Rock’s a different world from Stevens, part of a stretch known for violent crime and drug-dealing. The idea’s the same: Get to know people. To this day, Perry said, he hears regularly from people he got to know on that walking beat. Sources who learned to trust him then subsequently trusted him with information when he moved to the detective division. Last weekend he was invited to an event there.
The continual walking is the best way to get to know people, establish relationships, he said. He has regular stops: Hooker School. Lulu’s European Coffee House (“my own little substation”). Some people who live alone and welcome a knock on the door.
His supervisor, top neighborhood cop Lt. Kenny Howell, keeps hearing from people who are pleased with Perry’s omnipresence and his commitment to the beat.
“My man is out here, and he’s doing a great job,” Howell told members of the East Rock Community Management Team at the Monday night meeting. That elicited another round of applause.
“I hope and pray they don’t take him away from us,” said one block watch captain, Anna Festa. “I think he’s great. He’s responsive. He makes it a point to get to know the neighbors. He’s a good person to ask advice as well as to hang out and chat with.”
“I feel safer,” Festa added, “keeping my windows open” now that Perry is on the beat.
Another block watch captain, Jane Edelstein, proclaimed Perry “awesome.”
Her children have already gotten to known Perry, Edelstein said. ” He knows them. He sees them walking to and from school. He stops by. He’ll ring my doorbell. My next door neighbor is my co-captain; he’ll ring her doorbell to find out what’s going on. It feels like we have a line of communication with the police department.”
Another Package, With Flowers
Monday afternoon’s package wasn’t the first Perry recovered this past week. The officer himself received a mysterious package last Thursday, after a long hot shift.
The temperature was already approaching 90 degrees as the shift began that morning when he encountered an elderly woman on Edwards Street alongside a young boy. The woman spotted Perry and started shaking her fist at him.
“You did it again!” she scolded him. “You son of a bitch! You did it again!”
Perry wondered what he had done again. She told him: He had towed her car, she said.
Perry explained he had just come out on the beat. He tried to calm her down.
Turns out the woman, from West Hartford, had driven the boy to New Haven for an appointment. She hadn’t known street sweeping was taking place. So her car got towed. That had happened the previous week, too.
A taxi was coming to take her to Tony’s Long Wharf to pick up her car. Perry gave her his cell phone number, told her to call him if she encountered any trouble.
Meanwhile he called Tony’s, explained to them about the upset older woman, and asked if they would consider waiving her towing fee. They agreed.
Perry next got a call from the woman. “She’s bawling,” he recalled: Tony’s didn’t have the car.
The car, it turned out, was towed to Anthony’s all the way on Gando Drive, not Tony’s. The woman hopped back in a cab. And Perry called Anthony’s. He explained the story. The shop was reluctant to waive the fee. “I’ll pay the fee,” he offered. “Eventually,” the shop agreed to waive it after all.
Toward day’s end Perry got a call from a sergeant at police headquarters.
“You have a package at the front desk,” he informed Perry.
“Is it ticking?” Perry asked.
No, it wasn’t. It smelled good, though. It was an Edible Arrangements fruit basket, complete with a floral bouquet and a note from the West Hartford woman. Perry took a photo of the note.
He still had the photo on his camera phone Tuesday. He displayed it during an interview.
“Dear Officer Perry,” it read. “Thank you so much for helping me today. You made the city of New Haven look good.”
Thomas MacMillan contributed to this story.
Related stories on new walking-beat cops:
• On New Turf, Officer Tyson Gathers Intel (Cedar Hill)
• “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)
Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:
• Shafiq Abdussabur
• Craig Alston & Billy White Jr.
• James Baker
• Lloyd Barrett
• Maneet Bhagtana
• Sheree Biros
• Paul Bicki
• Scott Branfuhr
• Dennis Burgh
• Rob Clark & Joe Roberts
• Sydney Collier
• Carlos Conceicao and Josh Kyle
• David Coppola
• Roy Davis
• Joe Dease
• Milton DeJesus
• Brian Donnelly
• Anthony Duff
• Robert DuPont
• 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
• Robert Hayden
• Robin Higgins
• Ronnell Higgins
• William Hurley & Eddie Morrone
• Racheal Inconiglios
• Juan Ingles
• Paul Kenney
• Hilda Kilpatrick
• Herb Johnson
• John Kaczor & Alex Morgillo
• Peter Krause
• Peter Krause (2)
• Amanda Leyda
• Rob Levy
• Anthony Maio
• Steve McMorris
• Juan Monzon
• Chris Perrone
• Joe Pettola
• Diego Quintero and Elvin Rivera
• Stephanie Redding
• Tony Reyes
• David Rivera
• Luis & David Rivera
• Luis Rivera (2)
• Salvador Rodriguez
• Brett Runlett
• David Runlett
• Marcus Tavares
• Martin Tchakirides
• Stephan Torquati
• Gene Trotman Jr.
• Kelly Turner
• Lars Vallin (& Xander)
• John Velleca
• Holly Wasilewski
• Alan Wenk
• Stephanija VanWilgen
• Michael Wuchek
• David Zannelli
• David Zaweski