CompStat Ramps Up

Paul Bass PhotoThe suspect’s mug shot flashed on the screen.

“Who is this guy?” the chief asked.

Responded the neighborhood’s top cop: “You know, he’s a little bit of an enigma.”

The conversation didn’t end there. It just began. It would draw in cops from other neighborhoods, other divisions. Not to mention people from state parole and the state’s attorney’s office. While dozens of others listened in.

The setting was a fourth-floor conference room at the police department. Some 70 people gathered there Tuesday morning for the department’s weekly “CompStat” meeting, where top cops responsible for New Haven’s 10 policing districts report on the latest crime trends in their neighborhoods and plans for tackling them.

Tuesday morning’s gathering showed the ways that new Police Chief Dean Esserman changed the meeting, dramatically, as part of his larger plans for remaking the department and revive community policing.

The meetings used to take place every four weeks, then every six weeks, according to Lt. Luiz Casanova, who oversees patrol. Maybe 30 people would show up, pretty much just cops from the department.

CompStat, which started in New York City, stands for “computer statistics” or “comparative statistics.” Cities across the country have replicated it; Esserman used it in Providence. In some places people have credited it with holding police supervisors accountable for performance and catching crime trends early; some have criticized CompStat for leading to fudging of numbers, similar to teachers and administrators playing around with results from high-stakes tests. CompStat can also, as demonstrated Tuesday, offer a chance for people working on crime from different angles and silos to share information and ideas.

This month Esserman began convening the meetings every week and inviting many more police “partners.” (He also changed the name from Tasca to CompStat.) Tuesday’s gathering drew more than twice as many people as in the past.

Close to half of them sat at three long tables arranged in a U shape. Managers of the city’s 10 policing districts sat at one table, taking turns answering questions about crimes in their neighborhoods. They have to come prepared, ready to explain how they’ll try to find, say, a repeat mugger on the loose or respond to an ongoing problem at a strip club.

Facing the district managers at another long table were top departmental detectives and their supervisors.

At the table connecting the other two tables sat Casanova, who emceed the meeting; Esserman, who peppered everyone with questions; state Sen. Martin Looney (a visitor); state prosecutor David Zullo; Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins.

Behind them 40 or so more observers crammed into the rest of the room, from the Family Alliance’s Street Outreach Workers program; from the state probation and parole departments; from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office and the Secret Service; the Metropolitan Transit Authority police; the University of New Haven and Yale Law School; the city’s health, traffic, and prisoner re-entry programs. Everyone found out what crimes are taking places where in town, who’s on the loose, what new plans New Haven has to work with other agencies.

From Beaver Hills to West Rock to Dwight, managers reported that they’ve started assigning regular walking beats this week, as planned. Participants reviewed a car chase earlier that morning (by Hamden cops into New Haven territory) that ended in a crash inside a sleeping man’s bedroom; Esserman spoke about the need to limit chases in the city. A new shootings-focused investigative unit, formed with the help of the state police and the state’s attorney, was announced. (Read about that here.)

The tone shifted at times from applauding the managers for their successes (“celebrating our wins,” as Casanova put it) and pressing them to commit to specific action.

Afterwards, as informal conversations continued among participants, Lt. Thaddeus Reddish remarked on the potential of weekly meetings to catch smaller problems before they get bigger.

“It’s good. It’s fresh,” he said. “You can stay right on top of it. You put this up [pictures of suspects, information about trends] six weeks from now [instead], you had six robberies, it gets to six robberies.”

No Murders Yet

In just about every part of town, the districts showed drops in most crimes, including violent crimes, from last week; over the past month; and compared to last year. (“Something in the water this past week I need to know about?” Esserman asked.) One exception: thefts from autos went up. In different neighborhoods, Casanova noted, the thieves seem to be swiping GPSs.

The most dramatic figure—but one officials don’t want to overemphasize at this point—involved murders, since that number can fluctuate wildly month by month. Still, after a year with a near-record 34 homicides, it did not go unnoticed.

“Today is Jan. 31,” Esserman noted. “There hasn’t been a murder [yet this year]. You are doing some nice work.”

Reported violent crime dropped 83 percent in Westville/West Hills in the first 28 days of January compared to 2011. “I know it’s early in the year. If you can keep that up, you’re a superstar,” Casanova told the district manager, Lt. Marty Tchakirides.

In Hill South, District 3, most crime categories dropped between 20 and 71 percent in January from a year ago. Esserman asked District Manager Holly Wasilewski why that happened. The arrest of one repeat offender made a big difference, she replied. Also, “having officers focus more on their beat boundaries rather than go all over the place.”

A 7 a.m. robbery of a woman has caused concerns at nearby John C. Daniels School, she reported. She planned to meet later that day with school officials and the head of the department’s school cops, Sgt. Ricardo Rodriguez.

Lt. Reddish reported on the capture of a violent burglar and street robber who’d been terrorizing East Rock and beating up Yale students.

Esserman turned to Lt. Julie Johnson, head of the Major Crimes Unit.

“Detective, did he talk?” he asked.

“He didn’t talk that night,” she responded. But a neighbor saw the mug shot in the Register and gave the cops information about another incident involving the suspect.

“This is the guy who messed up our block watch meeting,” Esserman said. “Good, we got him. The community needs to know we got him.”

“We put the word out,” Reddish said.

So far the police have him for two of the incidents for which he’s suspected, Reddish said. One involved the man punching his girlfriend’s father with a knife inside his fist.

Prosecutor David Strollo, sitting near Esserman, reported on the suspect’s bond and upcoming court dates.

In another case, Fair Haven’s Sgt. Anthony Zona had the picture of a suspect he’s been tracking shown on the screen. He’s the same suspected mugger, Zona said, whom the group had discussed earlier in the meeting, who’d been trying to cash stolen lottery tickets. Zona also spoke of upcoming plans to catch someone who apparently robbed two different Chinese food delivery people in two nights. And he spoke of working with people at a crime-plagued housing complex to start registering serial numbers of TVs, playstations and Xboxes.

“You’ll trust they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. Then you’re going to trust and verify,” Esserman pressed him.

“Absolutely,” Zona vowed.

A Confession

The managers were on the spot, for the most part clipped and monotonic in their reports and responses.

Then came Lt. Ray Hassett’s turn. The Dwight district manager and former professional actor (he had parts in Body Double and Superman: The Movie), spun the tales of two troublemakers his cops have been tracking.

One was the hapless robber who kept knocking on doors one day last week and pointing a gun at potential mugging targets, only to have the doors closed on him. Police caught up with him. They recovered two “Stinger” air soft handguns—with labels showing the suspect’s name and birth date.

“Who is this guy?” Esserman asked.

Hassett (at right in above photo, right before the meeting started) called him an “enigma.” He comes from Massachusetts, he said.

“Where does he live?

“He’s homeless.”

“With two guns?”

The man also got caught in North Carolina for assaulting a handicapped person, among other crimes.

Turning to Strollo, Esserman asked whether the suspect can be held behind bars. “It’s up the judge,” Strollo replied.

“I wonder about this guy,” Esserman pressed.

Hassett began quoting the suspect speaking to the cops after his capture: “I’m stupid. I can’t believe I’m such an idiot. Just take me to jail ...”

Hassett paused for dramatic effect, then added, “That’s a confession,” provoking laughter throughout the room.

Esserman suggested the state’s attorney pay special attention to the case. Turning back to Hassett, he noted that the cops who caught the suspect are Hassett’s two newly-assigned walking beats.

“They were in the car” that night last week, Hassett replied.

“What were they doing in the car?”

“I didn’t start the walking beats until last night.”

Then Hassett asked have projected the picture of another repeat offender. “He is a player in my district,” he said. “I want to put him on the radar.”

The man has fought with cops, he said. A family member personally asked the cops to have him arrested.

Lt. Jeff Hoffman, who heads the tactical narcotics unit, said his detectives made an undercover drug buy from the money. The crack cocaine turned out to be fake. They got a search warrant for his apartment, arrested him on dealing charges, and discovered 13 bags of marijuana.

He’s now out on bond.

Is he on probation? Esserman asked. Parole?


“Terrific. Is he back home?”

“Yes,” Hassett responded.

“He lives with his mother,” Hoffman added.

Many eyes will be watching.

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posted by: Angel on January 31, 2012  6:29pm

This whole article read like a really bad 70’s cop flick.

posted by: cedarhillresident on January 31, 2012  6:45pm

”....weekly meetings to catch smaller problems before they get bigger.”

PROACTIVE prevents bigger issues! Stop it while it is small and your have a safer city. Ignore it because it is small and not worth the effort and it festers, grows bigger and creates more crime!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 31, 2012  6:58pm

This will never work here.Some poilce officer friend of mine sent this to me.

The trouble with CompStat.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 31, 2012  7:01pm

Also look what happen.

Police Tactic: Keeping Crime Reports Off the Books.

posted by: Rich on January 31, 2012  7:08pm

If these supervisors are busy trying to figure out why robberies are so much lower than last year, I assume by getting to know the 15,000 people or so per district who’s out catching the crooks. What a joke the New Haven Police Department is turning into!

posted by: Narcotics Joke on January 31, 2012  7:52pm

The Article mentions LT Hoffman, head of NH’s Narcotic unit buys fake crack and gets a few bags of weed from a search warrant? What a joke. That unit should be doing big cases. They get away do the absolute smallest of drug busts. Cops in uniform make bigger busts than Hoffmans TNU.

posted by: John on January 31, 2012  8:49pm

What is with this website. Enough boring stories about the New Haven Police Department. The writers for the independent must have some crazy fascination with police officers. Please write about something else!

posted by: ReasonableResdient on January 31, 2012  10:15pm

What is wrong with you people?
Quit whining, leave the Police Chief alone, and let him get on with his job.

posted by: RealStat No Lies on February 1, 2012  8:12am

Esserman thinks be is successful because there have been no murders in 30 days. Um, there have been 10 shootings in New Haven in the oast 30 days. Let’s give credit for no murders so far to the two hospitals and pour aim.

posted by: robn on February 1, 2012  9:12am

Did the NHI do an article about the capture of the east Rock burglar. I’d like to know more about it.

3/5, The writing you linked to rests on an unverified guess that police reports are fudged or destroyed to give the appearance of a drop in crime (New Yorkers are pretty smart and pretty active…they would probably figure out if the stats are being fudged). The real thrust of the link you posted is that the NYC Policemans Benevolent Association is complaining about a decrease in employment over the past decade. It

posted by: To Narcotics Joke on February 1, 2012  10:47am

I will say our bust was not the greatest of the year, what it was was a quality of life issue.  Now I’m gonna do my best to spell things out for you because you probably are law enforcement, most likely one of my disgruntled, chronic complaining coworkers at the NHPD.  Our Narcotic Unit is comprised of 7 members of the NHPD and 1 from Hamden.  How many districts are there in New HAven?  10.  So 8 investigators for 10 districts.  We often receive anonymous complaints regarding certain houses and locations.  These complaints are usually categorized as “Quality of Life Issues”.  These problems bother citizens who complain of junkies walking in and out of residences, leaving their paraphernalia on the ground, and in general annoying residents.  What may not seem like a big deal to you, or others for that matter, is a big deal to people who live there and which I recently noticed after the weed bust as well as a recent operation on Pierpont street is appriciated if ever so subtlety.  Our finances are not all that great also.  We do get money but not the kind of money to make large purchases of narcotics.  That is where our partners at the DEA, ATF, and Statewide Narcotics come in.  We work together to build bigger cases like the one in NewHallVille just over a year ago and the most recent one in Fair Haven.  Our primary responsibility is to serve the public and try to make the area a little better.  Also these small cases are the ones which lead to bigger cases. ...

posted by: Ex-NHPD on February 1, 2012  5:08pm

If it is no longer called TASCA, are they still using the computer program from TASCA that collates the crime stats into the maps/charts/graphs for the Compstat meeting?

There are too many non-Law Enforcement people present for the entire meeting.  Law Enforcement sensitive info is being held back and not fully discussed in the meeting because there are eyes/ears there that should not see/hear the info.  Yale and UNH Law School?  Is Yale there because Esserman is teaching a class at the Law School? Maybe the Yale Law School is there to identify/recruit future plaintiffs against local police agencies. City Health and Traffic-do not need to hear the L.E. stuff.  Senator Looney? Sounds like a photo-op.

Number one ludicrous statement of the meeting is “Today is Jan.31.  There hasn’t be a murder [yet this year].  You are doing some nice work.”

This is the problem with CompStat type meetings and the absolute devotion to crime numbers.  Let’s use some statistics.  Last year approx. 130 people were shot; additionally 35 were killed.  If all the killings were shootings, that means there were about 165 REPORTED people shot in New Haven.  That means approx. 20% of the reported people shot in 2011 were killed.  With 10 people shot in January (right on pace with 2011), one would expect 2 of those to be homicides.  So, what is the “Nice work”  these District Managers and/or Police Chiefs/Detectives/Cops done to make that number zero?  The walking beats have not been rolled out city-wide.  David Kennedy has not presented and implemented his Blueprint. The NHPD has not altered the sights on the criminal’s firearms. It is an anomaly.  If in February, with all the same plans in place (and walking beats across the city), two people are murdered, will those District Managers be crucified for “allowing this to happen”?  The worst thing that could ever happen for Tchakirides was the 83% drop in violent crime in his district in January.  When the number goes back up in ANY increment, he will be held to the fire for it.  It will go up.  There is nothing being done solely by the NHPD that will sustain that type of drop in crime.

Didn’t Limon eliminate Hill South (District 3) and put Wasilewski in charge of the Hill as one district?  So are there ten Districts (with Wasilewski supervising two districts) or are there nine?  Just asking.

posted by: To Narcotics Joke 2 on February 1, 2012  5:57pm

To Narcotics Joke 2,
In years past the Narcotics Unit was no bigger than the one you have now. The jobs were better quality, better quantity, and done with little or no outside funding. Stop complaining and go to work.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on February 1, 2012  6:39pm

I forgot another group of people who should not be present for the entire meeting—Media/Press.  What happens when they publish info about on-going investigations and/or suspects not yet arrested?  It certainly could compromise justice.

posted by: HhE on February 1, 2012  9:32pm

Ex-NHPD, I had much the same thought.  OpSec is being compromised, me thinks for a dog and pony show.  As much as I should like to be a fly on the wall “Its just like Law & Order, only real” said my friend about jury duty.), we have a right not to know. 

I can see the case for Yale PD (who did NOT have the leak that NHPD had that compromised the Jovan murder case).  There may be times other entities ought to be present for part of a meeting, but as a rule ought to be excluded.

posted by: anon on February 2, 2012  7:27am

“Number one ludicrous statement of the meeting is “Today is Jan.31.  There hasn’t be a murder [yet this year].  You are doing some nice work.”

Agree that’s completely over the top, but it works to get a round of applause in most rooms.  Most people know little about crime other than watching law and order.

I’d like to see some actual stats on things that matter like the number of cases cleared (18% last year, well below the state average) and the number of speeding tickets issued in each district.

posted by: ISU on February 2, 2012  9:37am

To Narcotics responder,
The detectives are needed on the third floor. Get rid of the narcotics unit and send those detectives to the third floor to work and help out.

There are enough narcotics type agencies in New Haven working like the ATF, DEA, FBI, and CSP who are better funded, equipped, and they dont deplete our detective bureau.

posted by: Jones Gore on February 2, 2012  9:45am

No I didn’t want him arrested; I wanted him convicted on charges prior to these which he was going to court for.  But the state did not think threatening a cop and his family was sever enough to sentence him to some time in jail.

I told my nephew not think he was getting away because he keeps beating the charges; no one will forget and one day his history will ruin his life. Judgement day is approaching.

posted by: the JV team on February 2, 2012  9:46am

All of the good narcotics info and busts comes from good patrol cops working the tough 4-mid shifts. Not from narc detectives working days. Bring back the 4-mid crime suppression units

posted by: To Narcotics Joke on February 2, 2012  10:15am

Past years huh narcotics joke?  Were those the years Lt. White was running the narcotics unit?  Give me a break.  I guess you don’t remember how those methods worked out.  Let me help you if you forgot FBI investigation, arrests and early retirements as well as sneaky back door deals.  I was not complaining either just showing you facts.  ISU I guess the Detectives can go to the 3rd floor and help you.  I mean when people have 20 open files some dating back to 2009 and no interaction at all with the complainants you need all the hand holding you can get.  Some of you forget the Detective Badge requires you to do work its not just to show all your friends in guilford.

posted by: I Got This on February 2, 2012  11:00am

I agree ISU. Narcotics detectives are a dime a dozen. A crack head tells you who’s selling, you lock them up. Try working for a living and solving crimes. Some day the NHPD will get rid of the good old boy network.

posted by: To Narcotics Joke on February 2, 2012  1:14pm

ISU and I got this….  Isn’t getting information from one person regarding a crime and then turning that into an investigation the idea behind all police work.  You get a complainant, a crack head or a witness and you work that case. ...

posted by: Aaron H1 on February 2, 2012  10:10pm

After reading this article, it Looks like New Haven needs the help of the State Police, Hamden, and a bunch of Ferderal agencies to do their job. Maybe the entire department needs to be swept clean?

posted by: Dirty laundry! on February 4, 2012  3:02pm

To Narcotics Joke and the other people airing dirty laundry about our already tainted PD. Its one thing for an outsider to criticize what they think is going on with are department, but bickering back and fourth on a public forum is inappropriate. Maybe your conversation needs to be had face to face instead of showing the public your personal issues with one another and your disgruntledness. The NHI loves comments like these….. police controversy!  Keep fueling the fire of bad PR for New Haven Officers.

posted by: HhE on February 6, 2012  11:12pm

So true, Dirty laundry!.  Thanks.