Walking Beats Return, With A Twist

Paul Bass PhotoPeople in 10 neighborhoods across town will see cops walking the beat again each day—under what police brass called a “smarter” new plan based on overtime and shifting routes.

That picture emerged Thursday as officials described a return of sorts to the popular foot-and-pedal community policing tactics that reigned in the 1990s.

At a press conference outside the Fair Haven substation, they detailed a plan, first reported here last week, to have district managers assign walking patrols at some point every day; and to train a fleet of 10 to 12 bicycle cops to commence daily two-wheel patrols within the next two months.

Toward the latter end, Assistant Chief Patrick Redding announced that a Dwight/Kensington neighborhood landlord, Pike International, has agreed to give the department $5,000 to buy nine new bikes.

The plan follows a Democratic primary election season in which numerous candidates and voters called for a return to 1990s-style foot-patrol beat policing to respond to out-of-control violence in the city.

It also marks a reversal of sorts in the city’s strategy. For years it has gradually removed most walking (except from downtown) and bike beats from the city, despite annual calls from the community for their return. 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.)

Mayor DeStefano was asked at Thursday’s press conference what changed in officials’ thinking from those previous remarks.

“I don’t remember that response per se,” the mayor said of those previous remarks. “What changed is citizens were telling us very directly they wanted to see cops on the beat. A lot of the cops are telling us they wanted to be on the beat. We expressed that over the summer through the motorcycle event.”

The last reference was to “Operation Safe Summer,” in which the department moved motorcycle cops to neighborhood hot spots. That led to some 5,000 motor vehicle citations—as well as served warrants, gun and drug seizures, and felony arrests in the process.

The new walking beats and bike beats for the fall are designed to work in a similar fashion, according to Redding. District managers will determine where crime has been concentrated lately, or where neighbors have been particularly concerned about evolving problems. Then the managers will station the walking beats there for a while to get matters under control.

The cops will largely be working overtime. Different cops will be working on different days; many will come from outside the district, because of strict department rules for how overtime is doled out.

That’s a different strategy from the one New Haven employed in the 1990s, when it assigned permanent officers to certain beats at a fixed regular time to get to know neighbors and develop personal relationships over time. The idea was to prevent problems before they occur rather than chasing after them later.

The new strategy does build on a second defining aspect of community policing as it developed over the past two decades: using day-to-day crime statistics to adjust deployment of officers in order to focus on brewing hot spots.

“I think it’s a smarter model,” Redding said of the newer approach: It responds to real-time data on new emerging problems, and it focuses a department’s limited resources on hot spots. And criminals will be kept guessing about where cops will show up.

Case in point: What Sgt. Tony Zona is doing in Fair Haven. Zona, Fair Haven’s district manager, recently pulled reports on the 15 most recent robberies. He noticed that the majority occurred on Ferry Street and Grand Avenue. (He’s pictured with a map on his office wall showing those 15 incidents.) So Zona has assigned two walking beats to cover that area at night this week. Zona’s joining them at times.

“The community is getting to know us,” Zona said. “I’m in it to win it.”

Another case in point: Whalley Avenue. That district’s manager, Sgt. Max Joyner, has been assigning walking beats during the day, not at night. He responded to neighborhood merchants concerned about young men hanging around the corners of Winthrop and Sherman avenues during the afternoon.

The results have been dramatic, according to merchant Pat Minore and Whalley Special Services District President John Vuoso and Executive Director Sheila Masterson (pictured with Sgt. Joyner, who’s at far left in photo). Problems have diminished dramatically in recent weeks, they said. And the new sidewalks and planters are in great shape. “Even people who hang out there have taken ownership” of the mums, Vuoso said.

Violent Crime Down

The press conference also included new crime statistics showing overall violent crime down 6 percent over the first six months of 2011, compared to the first six months of 2010.

Rapes were down 14 percent, aggravated assault 20 percent, burglary 8 percent, and larceny 14 percent.

Murders rose 29 percent and robbery, 4 percent.

Assistant Chief John Velleca said the department has cleared 17 of this year’s 26 homicides and made arrests in five “cold cases” from the past 10 years so far in 2011.

Bike patrols and foot patrols won’t immediately impact the murder rate, DeStefano predicted: He said those murders are committed largely by a small group of mostly ex-offenders bent on mayhem. Intensive investigative efforts by the detective squad and intelligence unit are more relevant in the short term. But the new patrols are designed to “build a culture of trust in the community” between cops and neighbors, DeStefano said. Which is how crime prevention is believed to work best over the long term.


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posted by: RR on October 7, 2011  8:44am

I read here just a fleeting mention of the success of motor vehicle citations. I really believe that more traffic stops will get a lot of drugs and guns and criminals off the streets. It happens all the time. So, please, NHPD, make this city better by enforcing the traffic laws regarding speeding, running red lights and aggressive driving. It will make the city a more decent place to walk, bike and drive, as well as discover worse things lurking in their glove compartments and under the seats. I feel like walking beats is just an election-year ploy to make us feel safer when we see a cop walking down the street. Honestly, more than half of your men who you have stationed at construction sites are texting or talking on their cellphones. Did you know that, Chief Limon? Do you really think they are going to walk their beats w/o their texts?

posted by: streever on October 7, 2011  8:49am

As a part of SoHu, I can tell the Mayor his response. I’m surprised he forgot it.

He was asked repeatedly through his District Managers—and through his Mayor’s Night Out and In programs—to re-install walking beats. He said they were inefficient and did not improve quality of life. He asked if—in the event of an emergency—we’d rather have an officer run 10 blocks or drive 10 blocks.

Pointless fear mongering tactics.

I’m glad he finally realized that himself. A shame it took a primary challenger to make him realize that.

Anyone want to lay odds on how long community policing lasts if he wins the general?

posted by: Westville on October 7, 2011  10:25am

This is great news and I hope, regardless of the outcome of this year’s Mayoral race, this continues.

posted by: David Backeberg on October 7, 2011  10:50am

I saw the motorcycle patrols this summer, and they were great. Lots of crazy car drivers pulled over for amazingly egregious violations. Thanks, NHPD!

I’m welcoming the foot patrols. When citizens know individual police on a one-to-one basis, they are a lot more likely to report crime. It’s hard to have a personal relationship with a cop who only rolls by in their cruiser.

posted by: noteworthy on October 7, 2011  11:03am

This is a flacid, small and cynical move by DeStefano who is facing a stiff and difficult road to re-election. It is so poorly thought out he must go begging for bike money. Crass and shallow. And nearly word for word from Kerekes. This is what 18 years and arrogance looks like.

posted by: noteworthy on October 7, 2011  11:17am

Noteworthy DeStefano flip flops for political gain:
1. School Reform
2. Community Policing
3. Firemen exams
4. Property tax hike of 2 years ago from high of 18% to 4
5. Re-val freeze

posted by: DMV on October 7, 2011  11:36am

were the crime statistics release in a public document Paul? It would be helpful for me and my students for a research project we’re working on.

posted by: Vote Him Out on October 7, 2011  11:52am

Arguably the highest taxed town in the country, and we have to go begging for handouts for bicycles! Fund raisers for police dogs and handouts for bicycles! This city is so mismanaged it is beyond pathetic. $470,000,000+ EVERY YEAR (not counting BOE!)but they cant find bicycle money? Or dog food?


posted by: dave on October 7, 2011  12:05pm

Paul, not one mention of the person that created walk/bike “community policing”, Nick Pastore. Why?

[Editor’s Note: Not an intentional slight. Yes, Nick Pastore brought community policing to New Haven.]

posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 7, 2011  12:18pm

Same over here streever but then we do get them but then the excuses come (vacation, short staffed and the one you pointed out). Year after year the beat cops are promised, only to be put to the way side in a month or two….anyone that has lived here long enough knows this as fact. It is to shut us up.

Nov. 2009…lewis said it does not work

march 2010,,,,Limon promised..did not happen

here july 2010….said it again..did not happen

and now this story for 2011

but I can remember this every year …year after year…..WORDS that last long enough to get the mayor what he wants….then we are back were we always end up! 18 YEARS IS ENOUGH!!! NO MORE EXCUSES!

posted by: Curious on October 7, 2011  12:32pm

This is DeStefano shamelessly stealing a plank of Kerekes’ platform, after repeatedly denouncing it.

Pike International had DeStefano campaign signs up on all their properties before the primary.  Clearly in the Mayor’s pocket.

posted by: HhE on October 7, 2011  1:28pm

For what it is worth, Cops on construction sights are not being paid by the city.  They are paid for by the contractor, who also pays into the pension system as well.  These Officers would be out of uniform except they have been hired to direct traffic.  I don’t think the texting is very professional, but they are not on the crime fighting clock.

I am all for more motor vehicle enforcement for the same reasons David Backebergput so well. 

I suspect that walking beats may be a pancrea, but I also believe they have real value in connecting the NHPD and our citizens. ...

posted by: Ex-NHPD on October 7, 2011  2:01pm

Johnny D does not remember making the statement about walking beats and how ineffective they are.  When asked what had changed his mind about bringing them back, he said it was what the public and cops want.  The perfect follow-up question would have been if he STILL believes walking beats are passive and ineffective.  If he still believes walking beats to be passive, why waste resources (overtime) on something that does not work? 
It should be noted that when dedicated district walking beats were jettisoned, there ALWAYS was a walking beat during the daytime at Chapel and Norton.  If the beat officer was not there, Johnny D’s man on the corner would make the phone call and the Shift Supervisor would hear about it from the Mayor’s office.

If this is a true return to walking beats, for the long haul, (not just until the election), then why is overtime being spent for plugging different cops in each day to walk the beats?  If this is a true return to walking beats, the District Managers should select District Officers to the task; have them be a consistent presence in the neighborhood.  The radio car assignments could be filled with overtime officers as they chase calls across the districts and the city.

The last time the NHPD was spending too much money on overtime, Johnny D laid off cops.  What happens when this deployment proves too costly?

I walked a beat for five years, in the same neighborhood. It was the most satisfying time of my career. I knew the residents, the businesses, the good guys, and the bad guys.  It was a defined beat and for the most part, I was not shuttled to other assignments.  It can work, but not everywhere.  A walking beat should not be created just by crime stats.

The 10-12 bicycles equates to 5-6 bicycle BEATS.  The majority of walking beats and bicycle beats are two officer assignments. The less enthusiastic bicycle officers will not go out on bicycle patrol in “inclement” weather.  A snowy winter like last year would shut the program down for a couple of months.

I believe that based upon the Mayor’s history with the NHPD, this is an Election Year tourniquet on the arterial bleeding that is the public’s concern about violent crime. Once the patient is stabilized (re-elected) the tourniquet will no longer be needed.

posted by: ohboy on October 7, 2011  2:48pm

To Dave, in a nutshell nick pastor did introduce community policing to the city, but in the process in brought to ruins a fine respected police department to what it is today. One that is mismanaged, undisciplined,and highly ineffective. One that was able to solve,make arrest’s and give the States Attorney office a case that was able to be tried. The police department is a cancer patient that is receiving no treatment other than band aids.
Kudos to Ex. NHPD always on point, the beats will go to where the mayors office wants them, ie where his backers are, they will be filled with overtime officers who will be coming from other areas and leaving after the shift, no community work being done, JD is no fool this is a page out of pastore give the cops money, ask little of them and keep them happy. How about putting those Detectives and day officers that are going to volunteer for the beats and make then push the cars letting the assigned area officers to get out and walk and learn from the residents.
Let’s see the stats,the cost of the overtime, who is getting it, and where and when the beats are deployed.
And to Chief Vellea what is the definition of cleared, is the arrest thrown out by the prosecutors office included?

posted by: HhE on October 7, 2011  4:08pm

Well said Ex-NHPD and ohboy.  Thank you for your insights.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 7, 2011  5:37pm

I’m not positive about this, but wasn’t it Mayor John Daniels that brought community policing to New Haven, and Nick Pastore who implemented it?

While crime is a serious issue in New Haven, it does little good to exaggerate it, so thanks NHI for posting the information about violent crime. Too often the media tries to sell a story rather than paint an accurate and fact based picture about an issue like that violent crime decreased in 2010 and so far also in 2011, hopefully that is a trend that continues.

posted by: GMGary on October 7, 2011  7:02pm

To the NHPD: Thank you for your commitment to us. This is a scary and dangerous city at times, but there are some very good people in it that need and want to be protected from the chaos, and want to help you, too. The hard work of the NHPD is very much appreciated.

posted by: city pays too on October 7, 2011  8:39pm

A cop is a cop is a cop. When he’s on duty whether it’s traffic enforcement,walking the beat,or standing guard at a construction site, he’s still sworn to protect and serve. If he witnesses crime of any sort he/she is to take appropriate measures

posted by: Ora on October 8, 2011  7:47pm

Kerekes pushes this and the mayor decides to go back to it. Police want overtime and the mayor wants their endorsement. The whole political implications of this are gut wrenching. When is this obsessive compulsive manipulation going to stop? WHEN THE MAYOR IS VOTED OUT, THAT IS WHEN!
And as far as having to buy bicycles for the police is absolutely ridiculous. Goes to show these generous grants were never used properly. Hire officers with them and lay them off. Just complete fiscal mismanagement still in motion. How can anyone celebrate this when it is another short term maneuver to get reelected. Sad for our city if this guy is reelected. I guess the business people of Whalley will take anything they can get no matter what the motive is by this mayor, and I can’t half blame them.  Just cannot trust this mayor at all. Sad New Haven, sad.

posted by: middletown ave resident on October 9, 2011  8:11am

for many years in the quinnipiac meadows area we asked at meetings and even the mayor about walking beat cops…..he said this area is not as bad as others….we had shootings…muggings house robberies you name it we had it..maybe not as much as other areas but we would love to see a cop walk or biking…not everyday but would be nice…..and again this all comes out at election time…..then they forget…

posted by: observor on October 9, 2011  8:14pm

This is nothing more than another political ploy by DeStefano. If he were really concerned about the taxpayers as he says he is then this wouldn’t have been stopped when it succeeded years ago. Another phony media move.Another series of lies to us all.Mr Destefano please leave your nosy politics out of police work so we can rely on the police to do the job that they can without yiou interfering.
And of course we can’t forget how against this method he was…

posted by: JOKE on October 9, 2011  10:04pm

Are you kidding me!! The department can’t even fill regular patrol cars and now they want to hire overtime for walking beats! Then get more bike cops!!! HELLO they have bike cops but they drive patrol cars and don’t see there bicycles. ... You have bike units but you have deployed your officers wrong. Attention NHI go to the department and see for yourself no cops in the city because they have them scattered elsewhere doing detective work…

posted by: Curious on October 10, 2011  4:13pm

This is a crock: 

“A cop is a cop is a cop. When he’s on duty whether it’s traffic enforcement,walking the beat,or standing guard at a construction site, he’s still sworn to protect and serve. If he witnesses crime of any sort he/she is to take appropriate measures”

I see cops witness traffic violations all the time, and they never turn on the sirens.  I’m talking about cars blowing through red lights (mostly near the hospital/med school) while a police car is right at the cross street, and the cop does notnothing

posted by: Nick on October 10, 2011  4:57pm

I am skeptical that the NHPD will be able to enforce traffic laws successfully until they begin to obey traffic laws themselves. The police in general are incredibly casual about running red lights, cycling the wrong way down one way streets, and cycling on the sidewalk. Violating traffic regulations in non-emergency situations is illegal, but the police break the law anyway.

posted by: hhpd on October 12, 2011  9:18pm

Nick: Violating traffic regulations in non-emergency situations is illegal, but the police break the law anyway.

its true and I do it all the time… because people like you don’t expect it… i will tell you a secret. We do the opposite of what people expect.. Maybe you don’t get it but that’s how we tend to sneak up on people who are about to or in the process of committing a crime.. WOW see that… I drove up a one way and caught a guy aiming a handgun at someone…. see so don’t be so judgemental and do a ride along… maybe you will learn why we do some traffic violations… we do respond to some calls (blowing lights and stop signs) because we are trained to respond silent to some calls…. please do a ride along and educate yourself .. we are trained to change our routine… have a nice day..