They Take “Broken Windows” Seriously

Three young men sat in a Chevy Malibu parked illegally outside an abandoned house. One made a cell phone call.

“Can you get your fucking ass down here?” he said into the phone. “These fucking cops are fucking harassing us.”

Officer Michael Haines and his partner, Brendan Borer, had approached the Malibu when they saw it stopped in no-parking zone.

Haines, 26, and Borer, 27, (pictured), have just started an assignment as walking beat cops in Cedar Hill (pictured on map), an oft-neglected neighborhood comprised of seven streets cut off from the rest of wealthier East Rock by the I-91 highway.

They say their goal is to tackle smaller “quality of life” offenses in the hopes of making headway against larger problems, such as drug-dealing and prostitution.

So when they saw the occupied vehicle in front of the vacant structure, Haines asked: Could he see some ID? License and registration?

The insurance on the vehicle looked outdated; Haines asked the driver to call his company and show he had valid coverage. While that went on, his friend in the passenger seat made the cell phone call to another person he claimed was inside the house.

“You’re not making it any easier for your friend,” Haines told the passenger. “Your attitude is going to affect the outcome here – which way this goes.”

Haines said he could have the car towed. He said he could issue a summons requiring the driver to go to court for his lack of insurance.

Meanwhile, the driver reported that, yes, he was carrying an expired insurance card. But a new one was on its way, he said.

In the end, Haines and Borer let the driver go.

“We could still have given him a ticket for not having an active card,” Haines said later. “We didn’t have to let him call the insurance company. That’s something we do out of courtesy, but we’re technically allowed to take his car.”

Haines said that in this case, the driver was “polite and well-spoken,” not rude or aggressive. The officers “didn’t get the sense he was up to no good.” So they gave him the benefit of the doubt and “cut him loose.”

Quality Of Life

That was one of many small encounters that took place as Haines and Borer patrolled Cedar Hill one recent afternoon. The two climbed through a derelict property’s newest broken window to check the interior, talked with neighbors on their sidewalks, and scoped parked vehicles as the sun went down.

On State Street, just past the “A Cut Above” barber shop, Haines pointed out a piece of broken siding on a building where he said he recently found a glass crack pipe hidden. He crushed the vial underfoot, and he said he hasn’t found drug paraphernalia hidden in the spot since.

Haines pointed to that act as one example of “broken windows” policing, the much-debated and diversely interpreted bedrock of community policing, in which cops address the smallest of offenses while patrolling on foot to get to know the neighborhood.

Borer and Haines graduated together from the Police Academy last December and were paired to walk a beat on lower State Street. About a month ago, they were assigned to patrol farther up State into Cedar Hill part of each week.

The two displayed an easy rapport. Borer, who typically drinks protein shakes and power bars, gave Haines a hard time for his gummy bears and sour patch kids at lunch and the two Hess station bags of popcorn he snacked on in the early evening. Trading stories before their shift started, Borer made Haines smile when he described one confrontation that week as “some Tokyo Drift driving.”

Growing up, Haines sometimes cruised along with his uncle, who was a cop in Bridgeport. “I got to see a few chases – flying, with the sirens going. It was fun,” he recalled.

The men in Borer’s family tend to be firemen, he said, but when the opportunity arose to test for a police position in New Haven, he took it. “I couldn’t ever do a desk job,” Borer said, though he acknowledged policing comes with its share of paperwork.

The pair said they’re still identifying “trouble houses” and hot spots in Cedar Hill, after more than four weeks on the job.

Heroin, crack, and marijuana all move through the neighborhood regularly, they said. It seems some dealers come from other parts of town to sell.

Haines and Borer also sometimes stop prostitutes in the area, signing up those willing to become confidential informants (“CIs”) instead of arresting them.

“They haven’t had cops up here in a while, and we catch on to stuff pretty quick,” Haines said. “We catch a lot of people just because they’re not used to having laws enforced eight hours a day.”

Once, early in November, the two approached a parked car and saw “more than a hundred” hypodermic needles all over the vehicle’s floor and seats. “These were needles without caps on them, with blood on the tips,” said Borer. “We told that guy not to hang around anymore.”

Things One and Two

“Typically, we know what these guys are doing. We just need a legal reason to stop them,” Haines said, on the theory behind honing in on parked cars and trespassing, or people visiting a park after sundown.

In downtown New Haven, where there’s a lot of congestion and “everyone” parks illegally, “you just let it go,” he said.

But not in Cedar Hill. People parking illegally are often up to other misdeeds, he argued.

“It depends on the area. In this area—let’s say these guys are just driving. We couldn’t pull them over because we’d have no reason why,” Haines said. “But let’s say these guys are parked in front of a house. From there, we can investigate what’s going on. Then, we come to find out maybe they don’t have a license, or the car’s not registered or insured—now we have an arrest.”

Walking towards one suspected “trouble house” on their regular route, Haines and Borer passed two identical twin brothers. “Hi Thing One, Thing Two,” Borer said, and the boys greeted him in return.

“I have an identical twin, and that was always what my family called us growing up,” Borer explained. (Things One and Two are mischievous, blue-haired characters out of Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat.)

Bottoms Up

As a school bus pulled up to the corner, Borer and Haines headed for a newly broken window at 161 Cedar Hill Ave. Someone had pushed out the glass on the boarded-up building’s front door.

Borer tried the knob and considered the hallway, which was littered with old phonebooks, newspapers, a Doritos bags and a broken lamp.

Haines climbed in first, kneeling and then stepping through the space into the house. The plane of glass fell whole, so no jagged pieces clung to the frame.

After checking the top floors, he returned for Borer so the two could search the basement together. “No way I’m going down there by myself,” he said.

Borer followed, with a supporting hand helping him through.

The basement was smeared with feces. “There’s shit in the tub, too,” Borer reported from a bathroom.

Beer cans, ramshackle furniture, and what were once clothes were splayed around the space. “People have been partying here,” Haines said.

Walking out, the officers ran into the property’s neighbor, Nicole Phelan, 21 (pictured).

“You guys find more hobos in there?” she asked.

Phelan said she hasn’t heard any music or noise coming from the house. “They must come and go late at night,” she said.

Chatting a while longer, Phelan mentioned that the fire department came to help a child in a nearby house a few days ago.

“A toddler was carried out on a stretcher,” she said. “Mine’s evil—a little devil—but it’s sad.”

The officers met Phelan’s young son, who was waiting in her car, before they moved down the street.

On the ground was a mix of dead leaves and snow that had melted and re-frozen into ice. Passing the edge of East Rock Park, Borer pointed out patches of dirt where quads have been driven in loopy joy-rides.

“They’re illegal, but you see those tracks everywhere,” he said. “They come out at night, when there’s no one to catch them.”

One more quality-of-life crime for the look-out list.

Ecstasy in Long Johns

Around 9 p.m., later that same day, Haines and Borer investigated a car parked illegally on the edge of East Rock’s woods. It was after dark; parks in New Haven legally close at sunset.

As the cops ran the vehicle’s license plate number, the driver took off. The officers called for back-up and followed in speedy pursuit; the chase ended at the corner of Grand Avenue and Hamilton Street.

“We all had our guns out,” Haines said later. “And when the driver gets out of the car, he has a white powdery substance—cocaine—all over his nose and face.”

When Haines and Borer searched the car, they found marijuana and cocaine. When the arrested men were being processed at the station, officers found four more bags of pot in the passengers’ underwear, Haines said.

(Borer, earlier, had mentioned making a different arrest and finding “ecstasy capsules hidden in this guy’s long johns.” He said that in the winter months, people wear more layers and so have more places to hide drugs.)

Unlike the illegally parked car earlier in the shift, this “broken window” had lead to a bigger crime scene.


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
Michael Fumiatti
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
Ryan Przybylski
Stephanie Redding
Tony Reyes
David Rivera
Luis & David Rivera
Luis Rivera (2)
Salvador Rodriguez
Salvador Rodriguez (2)
Brett Runlett
David Runlett
Betsy Segui & Manmeet Colon
Allen Smith
Marcus Tavares
Martin Tchakirides
David Totino
Stephan Torquati
Gene Trotman Jr.
Kelly Turner
Lars Vallin (& Xander)
Dave Vega & Rafael Ramirez
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Manuella Vensel
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Holly Wasilewski (2)
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posted by: cedarhillresident! on December 20, 2013  4:24pm

Just a few weeks back me and my neighbor were jumping and cheering because the officers had got someone that parks in our hot spot. We had never seen a person actually get arrested (and we all know what they are doing on that strip). We cheered and were yelling thank you! And then we saw again another one happening in our back yards ( well the funeral places) and she called me (look our the your back window) we were again jumping up and down and cheering to eachother on the phone. It is like the biggest Christmas present anyone in Cedar Hill could ever ask for! Our day time community contact told us about the officers and she praised them. And we in Cedar Hill our more than grateful for how they are making a difference. It was getting so bad here. Our biggest issues is the strip on state and a few houses (which I am sure they have figured out) Rock street we have out of towners and non community people park on the hot sport strip and right at the corner of rock and state..but a lot of the dealers and users that park here do not live here. Ok anywho…....


posted by: Cedar Hill Merchant on December 20, 2013  6:32pm

Thank you both, Officers Michael Haines & Brendan Borer. Your presence in Cedar Hill has made a huge impression in our little Neighborhood already. Many thanks also go to Chief Esserman, Lt. Blanchard and Lt. Sharp. Thanks for believing in our small but passionate neighborhood as much as we all do.

posted by: hrsn on December 24, 2013  9:21pm

I91 is not responsible for cutting off Cedar Hill from the rest of East Rock, but rather the Mill River. If anything I91 cuts it off from Fair Haven, but the NH Railroad already did that about a century ago.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on December 26, 2013  11:17am

I am going to disagree with you partly on that for the one reason that more than half of Cedar Hill was demolished to put the highway up
see map pre highway.

Now the streets that were removed to make Rice Field were removed in 1921 but the partial streets that were removed were done to build the highway.
But you are correct that Cedar Hill was always part of fair haven until Congressional district changed happened a little over a decade ago. And the fact that ever district needs to by law have 10% affordable housing within it. (Cedar Hill is most of that 10% for East Rock).

Reality, Cedar Hill is an extremely isolated area,  highway cuts them off from East Rock and Fair Haven and the Rock cuts them off from Hamden, (remembering that even the Hamden part of Cedar Hill is isolated from hamden)

But the reality is our policing district is Newhallville…so for officers to get to my area they have a long drive from Newhallive to respond to an issue (remembering that Fair Haven officers do not because it is not their district)