East Rock’s “Stray Animal” Problem

Lt.%20rebecca%20sweeney.jpgEast Rock’s top cop warned people not to hire neighbor- hood teens to do odd jobs.

Lt. Rebecca Sweeney (pictured) issued the warning during a report on neighborhood crime at Monday evening’s East Rock Management Team meeting at the East Rock School library at Nash and Willow.

Sweeney said she’d gotten some complaints from residents who had hired kids to do chores like snow shoveling, but weren’t happy when they reappeared at their doors. “I know it’s cheap labor; I completely understand, but it’s like feeding stray animals — once you feed them, they continue to come back. Call us if you think they’re up to no good.” Click here to hear more of her thoughts.

A man at the meeting cautioned, “It’s important not to be judging the kids who are doing this. There are certainly plenty of kids who are trying to earn some money legitimately.”

Sweeney acknowledged that, but still urged residents to hire only licensed contractors.

That had some of those at the meeting, like Judy Nugent, shaking their heads. “My son used to do that kind of thing to make extra money,” she said, finding no harm in it.

kevin%20mccarthy.jpgManagement team chair Kevin McCarthy (pictured) mentioned that some youngsters would ring front door bells and then, when no one answered, go around to the back door, which raised the level of concern.

Book Reading, Aggressive Drivers

Sweeney also reported on a new project that’s recruiting volunteers to take new books and read to kids at the Newhallville substation, hopefully on an ongoing basis. The first reading day will be Saturday, March 22, after which the kids will be given the books to take home. Neighbor Debra Hauser, who’s working on the project, said the volunteers were motivated to take action after learning that the criminal justice system forecasts the number of beds it will need for prisoners based on third graders’ reading scores. That was the same point raised by Sen. Toni Harp in this story.

Mark Abraham asked Sweeney if there is any effort at the police department to take action against aggressive drivers who run red lights and ignore the rights of pedestrians and cyclists, and specifically to educate drivers that the law requires them to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

“No,” she said, because the force is understaffed. She did suggest that anyone who sees those things happening should call the police. If a pattern is detected, she might be able to send an officer to nab offenders in the act.

Then McCarthy led a discussion about whether those present want to create subcommittees, either standing or ad hoc, to address concerns around public safety, transportation, housing and mentoring in neighborhood schools. Several people mentioned that the ad hoc effort to reduce noise pollution was effective. The sense was that it’s best for people who care passionately about a problem to organize around it for maximum results, rather than create committees that may not do anything. Meeting-goers agreed to do some brainstorming at the next meeting, March 24, 7 p.m. in the library of East Rock School.

betty%20thompson.jpgBefore the meeting ended, Betty Thompson (pictured), who lives in the Cedar Hill section of East Rock and was attending her second Management Team meeting, said she needed to get in touch with members of the Friends of East Rock Park for help with some neighborhood concerns, like beautification and getting a canoe launch in her part of town for access to the Mill River. “People come to these meetings with their own agendas,” she said. That was hers. “If you don’t bring up what you want, nobody is going to bring it up for you.” Several people suggested she contact Alderman Roland Lemar.

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posted by: True New Havener on February 26, 2008  8:09am

As Obama says, the silly season has arrived.

So kids (the overwhelming majority of whom are completely legit) come to your door to shovel snow.  You should turn them away because of their industriousness?

Kids snow shoveling and doing other odd jobs has been going on in New Haven for hundreds of years.

It would seem that in the long haul, slamming the door in kids faces, door after door, block after block, is more likely to create angry disenfranchised youth than letting them make a few bucks shoveling snow.

Is there more to this story?  If not, then the NHPD should really hire more officers who live in the city and thus likely engaged in exactly this kind of entrepreneurial behavior themselves one day.

posted by: Da Hill on February 26, 2008  8:12am

“I know it’s cheap labor; I completely understand, but it’s like feeding stray animals—once you feed them, they continue to come back. Call us if you think they’re up to no good.”

Wow, referring to our cities children who are trying to use their free time doing odd jobs for the community as animals is horrible.  I use to walk up and down the street with a rake and lawnmower asking neighbors to cut their grass for 10 bucks.  I didn’t know I was like a stray…an unowned, unwanted animal. 

I know that is not what she meant, but it is what she said…an apology is warranted.  We have too many kids trying to do good, and they don’t deserve to be criticized for trying to make an honest buck.  Some of these kids are supporting their family with whatever little change they can muster.  Sweeping the driveway, raking leaves, cutting grass, removing debris, are all socially acceptable activities for the youngsters…not every kid asking to clean your yard is trying to rob you…we have to change our mindsets about our children.

posted by: cedarhillresident on February 26, 2008  8:47am

Please… I am glad I did not go last night! I did talk to my community reps that went….by the way…Cedar Hill is East Rock (we just renamed ourselves because we got tired of being called “the Other Side of East Rock”.... and yes our issues our your issues this is a management meeting not a block watch!! Is this meeting not for all East Rock residents?? Are we not allowed to be part of the agenda? oh wait
I have put my e-mail on the mailing list 4 times now and have yet to be added to it. So I have know one to email our issues to so they can add them. And when reading the minutes our State and Ferry issue from last months meeting where not in them?? Over site? It was a win for the community! Yes your community (because WE are part of it!)
“Stray Animal” ???
“A man at the meeting” Thank You!!

posted by: Outta-order on February 26, 2008  9:18am

those pesky little subhumans looking for work… what’s wrong with them!

posted by: JMAC on February 26, 2008  9:38am

Since when is it okay for a police officer to publicly demonize youth seeking legit work?

Youth should not be reduced to being called “stray animals.”

This not the first time, in fact, that youth have been wrongfully misrepresented at East Rock Community Management Team Meetings.

Remember this summer? Right before school let out? Youth who attended the Cross Annex were blamed for a string of muggings.

The management team pressured school officials to move the school out of the neighborhood. There was no platform for youth - or parents for that matter - to participate in this. To defend themseleves or have a say in the decision to relocate the school.

It was only an after-thought, that alternative schools were an issue.

posted by: cedarhillresident on February 26, 2008  9:48am

In defense of Rebecca I am sure that is not what she meant. But again I am glad I was not at the meeting because I know one of our community kids was over there….a fine young man that goes to that new school at the annex. I pray doors were not slammed on him because he is a leader as young men go.

And at large alot that do not attend this meeting that live in that area are amazing people so don’t let the few represent the whole. We could have our whole block watch go to the meeting every month but we just send a rep or two. Hmmm maybe if the whole block watch started going they would ....never mind.

Golly I wish I could but down my real thoughts!

posted by: cedarhillresident on February 26, 2008  9:54am

PS I forgot bravo on the reading program in NewHallville maybe it will help motivate these kids to do the right things in life. With all the walls they have to climb in this world every little step is a help!

posted by: charlie on February 26, 2008  9:59am

You’re all taking her quote way out of context.

Focus on the issues at hand, not on the way people use metaphors.

posted by: Darnell on February 26, 2008  10:01am

“...Like stray animals…”

What can a person say to that? Does she live in New Haven? Has she ever lived around people of color? She should immediately be sent to diversity training.

posted by: Darnell on February 26, 2008  10:20am

Charlie,

I listened to the tape. It was not taken out of context. What she said and what she meant may have been two separate things, but as a police officer and a community leader, she has to pick her “metaphors” a little better. And, by the way, what are the “issues at hand”. I grew up on Huntington Street in Newhallville, and my friends and I would always climb the hill to that other neighborhood (East Rock) to shovel driveways after snow storms, for some pocket change. We would also return to the same haunts once we found someone in need. That did not make me a criminal, and this type of behavior should not be criminalized. Every time a youth knocks on your door, it does not mean they are “up to no good”. I wish there was more of it. I can’t tell you the number of times I would have gladly paid $5 or $10 to some kid to shovel me out, but unfortunately we don’t see as many of them doing these types of activities anymore. Maybe it is because they don’t want to be treated like animals and questioned by the police.

posted by: JZ on February 26, 2008  10:56am

Since when is snow shoveling a licensed trade?

If someone is shoveling your walkway for $10, pay them outside and don’t invite them in.  Common sense.  If they repeatedly ring your doorbell- don’t answer.

That said, burglaries are a serious problem in N.Haven.  Don’t give someone the opportunity to scope out your house or garage.  Control the circumstance under which anyone works for you- inside or out.  Over the years, most of the houses in my (very nice) neighborhood have been broken into.  Perhaps, that is what the cop should have said rather than the “stray animal” analogy.

Personally, I don’t hire kids to rake or shovel for that reason.  My neighbors and I use the same two guys who have been working in the neighborhood for a long time.  I’m not willing to take a bigger chance on a stranger.  Sad, but true.  Friends nearby recently had a break in and lost almost all their valuable and sentimental things, and their peace of mind.  Not worth it to me for a cheap shovel job.  The cops who showed up referred them to their ins co and didn’t give any hope that it would be solved.  Didn’t even take fingerprints.  That’s the norm.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in a version of the wild west.  Do you really think we have a police buffer there?

posted by: WESTVILLE Resident on February 26, 2008  11:07am

Her comment was inappropriate and there are no two ways about it. “They” shovel my driveway all the time and I am happy to see them come back each time it snows. “They” don’t come back in the summer looking for food, oops I mean work. “They” only come around when it is warranted. “They” are respectful and do a great job!

posted by: Ned on February 26, 2008  11:15am

No one at the meeting suggested “slamming doors in kids faces”  On the other hand, when Lt. Sweeney used the animal metaphor, I thought WTF!  Does she have any particular species in mind?  A history lesson and some diversity training is definitely in order. People use really offensive animal terms to refer to women too - you’d think she’d have a clue???

posted by: charlie on February 26, 2008  11:22am

She didn’t call the kids stray animals—she has more sense than that. She merely compared the problem to that situation, thinking that this was a good way to get people to understand the nature of the problem (maybe even people who are not as educated as you and understand simple comparisons better than elaborate descriptions).  The problem she is trying to ameliorate is that the kids return and sneak around the neighborhood looking for things, creating a lot of “suspicious person” / tresspassing complaints and worse.

The officer was not out of line.  You guys just need some serious sensitivity training.

posted by: on whalley on February 26, 2008  11:36am

Oh man, I can’t believe I agree with Charlie.

Is there brimstone in the forecast?

posted by: JMAC on February 26, 2008  11:39am

The officer was definitely out of line.

Also - what is the real problem? Is it that there aren’t enough job opportunities for youth in the summer and during the academic year?

I don’t think the solution to this issue is for police to advise residents to fear and distrust the teenager at their doorstep.

This only perpetuates negative stereotypes about youth and also illuminates the troubling mentality that adults - including police officers - have about youth in our city.

posted by: Darnell on February 26, 2008  11:46am

Charlie,

So kids walking or biking around “your” neighborhood are now “sneaking” around. How do you determine which kids are OK, and which are “sneaking”? Is it by the clothes they wear? Or perhaps they wear signs that say “I don’t belong here on this city street in New Haven, I’m sneaking around and am up to no good”. I am extremely curious to know how you determine the “good” ones from the “bad” ones.

posted by: Darnell on February 26, 2008  12:04pm

Charlie,

Do you believe for one moment that the folks in the East Shore, or anywhere else for that matter, would have been happy with their children being metaphorically compared to hungry stray animals? Why do you think we on the other side of town would be OK with it?

posted by: Josiah Brown on February 26, 2008  12:05pm

I am the “man at the meeting” who was quoted in the article above saying:

“It’s important not to be judging the kids who are doing this [seeking odd jobs]. There are certainly plenty of kids who are trying to earn some money legitimately.”

I believe most East Rock (and city-wide) neighbors agree that the great majority of New Haven young people are of good will and looking for opportunities to develop positively.  (Such opportunities are often inequitably distributed.  Baby-sitting, snow-shoveling, etc. are hardly a problem when what sociologists call “social capital” and “cultural capital”—whom you know, academic homework habits, information about everything from college preparation and financial aid to job openings, etc.—not only access to financial capital, can be highly variable.)  New Haven has several accomplished youth organizations, as well as the public schools, Youth@Work and faith communities, where young men and women can receive encouragement and experience beyond their families. 

There are, too, cases of young men and women off on the wrong, perilous track.  In these cases, many in the community—including through such efforts as the Outreach Workers and Juvenile Review Boards, truancy officers, etc.—are seeking to help youth take responsibility for their actions and try to stay out of further trouble.

Community policing, including the management teams such as the one in East Rock which meets on the fourth Monday evening of each month, is meant to bring neighbors together with officers, building acquaintances and trust.  On occasion, members of multiple management teams convene to reduce barriers and foster understanding.  We need more of this, so people can recognize one another as individuals rather than as simply, say, residents of a certain neighborhood, members of a designated ethnicity or nationality, or people of a particular age demographic.

The police have a very difficult job, and it’s impossible always to satisfy everyone given competing pressures and triage among priorities.  Their fundamental job is to protect the public.  Community policing helps them to do this, and to do so in a way that respects individual rights.

Cedarhillresident, thank you for all that you apparently do with East Rock Park and neighborhood advocacy more broadly.  Re: the management team, it’s a very inclusive group. We hope more neighbors will join us.  Debbie Rossi conscientiously handles the e-mail list; any communication problem was likely the result of a bulk/junk e-mail filter rather than an oversight, and certainly was not intentional.

Re: reading, tutoring, and/or mentoring for children and youth, prospective volunteers (or book donors) might contact New Haven Reads and its Book Bank
http://www.newhavenreads.org/
or the New Haven Public School foundation
http://www.nhps.net/NHPSFoundation/. 
A regional clearinghouse for information is the all-volunteer Greater New Haven Literacy Coalition:
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

posted by: robn on February 26, 2008  12:15pm

The officer used a bad simile (not a metaphor) and she also jumped to a dumb conclusion; the conclusion that entrepreneurial youths earning some money exposes homeowners to a threat.

Hey NHPD..if you were going to case a home for theft, would you do it on a SNOW DAY when the homeowner and kids are probably home and when you’d leave tracks if you crept through the backyard uninvited, and when it would be really hard to run away if you’re caught given the conditions of the sidewalks??? Would you use shoveling services as your hook thereby allowing the homeowner a nice up close look at you…memorizing your facial features and voice??? ...or would you wait for a normal nice day when everyone is at work and nobody is there to see you?

Yard service and theft are two different things. JZ’s advice is good though. Hire a kid in the neighborhood or get to know the kid who’s helping you out. Who knows; it might even be an opportunity to mentor a kid who’s trying to stay on the right track.

posted by: charlie on February 26, 2008  12:42pm

Robn - are you a police supervisor?  Have you read through thousands of case files, crime reports and citizen complaints?

If not, what facts have you used to arrive at your belief that the Lieutenant “jumped to a dumb conclusion” about this? 

Just curious.

posted by: robn on February 26, 2008  2:16pm

Charlie,

The whole point of this officers job is that she has access to case files and we don’t.

I’m as curious as you because the officer only reported that “she’d gotten some complaints from residents who had hired kids to do chores like snow shoveling, but weren’t happy when they reappeared at their doors.” I assume that if any assaults or thefts were linked to children doing chores, then the officer would have revealed it in this public forum. I’m left with only one factual conclusion from this presentation. Some homeowners complained to the police that kids who have done yardwork have solicited more work.

Until I hear about a crime having been committed, all I’m hearing about is paranoic profiling. No doubt some kids at old Cross Annex committed crimes and I’m thankful to NHPD that they were caught. Now let’s hear about what laws these shovellers have broken.

posted by: Peter Stein on February 26, 2008  3:02pm

As someone who was actually at the meeting last night and heard Lt. Sweeney’s comment first-hand, I would suggest that this is being blown way out of proportion.  If I followed the discussion correctly last night, she only made the suggestion she did because there actually have been problems with young people looking for work walking around on people’s properties in ways that concerned the homeowners.  This follows similar problems that have been discussed at previous Management Team meetings where young people selling things or looking for work have acted in ways that have concerned residents.  You may or may not agree with Lt. Sweeney, you may or may not think this was the best choice of words, but she was giving her best opinion of how to deal with a situation of concern brought to her by the residents she serves.  Lt. Sweeney is one of the hardest working, most thoughtful, caring public servants I have met yet in New Haven who does this job out of pure love of our city.  (She comes from a big family of New Haven police officers.)

Let’s please move on.

posted by: Carole on February 26, 2008  4:13pm

I don’t want to pile on, but what about another subject that Lt. Sweeney addressed—aggressive driving, and specifically failure to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk? She said police have no plans for enforcement or education because they’re understaffed. “If a pattern is detected, she might be able to send an officer to nab offenders in the act.”

A pattern of aggressive driving? How about every intersection, on every street, in every neighborhood, at every time of day and night? Patrol officers have continual opportunities to nab offenders in the act. I’ve never, ever seen it happen. Lt. Sweeney isn’t responsible for understaffing, and she doesn’t make NHPD policy. But I would love to hear from someone who does.

Muggers and drug dealers aren’t the only ones making our streets unsafe. So do the drivers who speed, blow through stop signs, and generally behave as if it’s everyone else’s responsibility to get out of their way.

posted by: charlie on February 26, 2008  4:36pm

Great post, Carole. I believe that your “Pattern of aggressive driving? How about every intersection!” point was made at the meeting, as well as at several meetings leading up to this one. 

It’s up to the citizens to complain to their Aldermen and police supervisors so that something can be done about this issue.  I agree that aggressive driving is just as bad, if not worse than, all of the other crime problems in the city.

posted by: youth of new haven on February 26, 2008  4:38pm

i am a young man of new haven who has gone around shoveling snow 2 have alil bit more money n my pocket. i gone around ringing door bells and knocking on doors just 2 see if some would pay me around 5 bucks jus 2 shovel their walk way or drive way….but 2 have someone say i am a stray animal. thats just straight up disrespectful. thats saying ima stop elderly people across the street because they gonna keep askin me… no i do it out of the kindness of my heart. i shovel walk ways and drives ways so u wont have 2 take that risk of getting hurt on your way 2 work…or taking out the trash…thats wrong…u sayin it as if u r going to do it urself…we keep comin back because of the fact that we know there are adults who give more than 5 ucks….thats why we keep coming back. we know they pay good…..all im saying is…weneva u need ur walk way shoveled dont ask me….dont come runnin 2 us wen u slip and fall on the ice…so we gonna see if u gonna get up be4 u gotta go to work and shovel ur walk way and drive way….i bet u wont

posted by: cedarhillresident on February 26, 2008  4:59pm

Ok Ok I am upset about the comment just as most seem to be. But lets not forget all the work that she does in Newhallville with children. I am sure this was a mispoken thing. It came out way wrong. But how many that are involed with her in there areas have had many bad things to say about her. I can complain about the lack of police in my area but I also know it is because she has so few. I can complain about the crime but it is all over the city not just in our district. She as cops go is at the top of the cop list. So although I agree the comment was a really bad one for anyone not just a cop to make. Lets not kill her for it.

posted by: David E on February 26, 2008  6:01pm

Carole’s post is 100% accurate. I have given the NHPD (Lt. Sweeney in fact), license plate #‘s of people who have nearly run me off of the road because I was driving the speed limit! I used to feel unsafe only when cycling, now I have to worry about the jerks who blow by me, in the *other* lane, around blind curves because they cannot believe that I am driving 25mph. This has happened on three occasions on Farnam Drive, and since I plan to continue driving the speed limit, I assume it will happen again. The NHPD may be way understaffed, but that doesn’t explain the whole situation. If they chose to open their eyes to this kind of lawlessness and actually hand out tickets, perhaps there might be a change. Jeez, where I come from, cops will give you a beating for driving 50 mph in a school zone (but that happens here every single day on Whitney).

posted by: DAFeder on February 26, 2008  6:52pm

Could I get a kid to come by my house and take care of my *actual* stray animal problem?  That’d be worth five bucks to me!

I assume this is what Lt. Sweeny was referencing: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2008/02/eld_st_robber_r_1.php

David

posted by: charlie on February 26, 2008  10:01pm

Great post, David E.  We need a “full court” press on this issue, at all levels of city government.  Call your alderman, mayor, 911, police and state reps every time you see a speeder. Work with groups in the city that are advocating to make it a better place for cyclists and pedestrians.

posted by: DRossi on February 26, 2008  10:19pm

Dear Cedarhillresident,
ÔªøI understand your frustration with attempting to get on the East Rock Community Management Team’s email list.  Frequently an email does not make it onto our list because I can’t read the
handwriting or the address bounces back as invalid.  If you speak with me at the next meeting I will be sure to get your address written down and add it to the list.

In regards to the minutes being incomplete, I believe that issue was raised at the meeting where my husband filled in for me and took the minutes as I was home sick with the flu.

My apologies for being human. Some people on this posting seem to be forgetting that we all are and therefore fallible.

posted by: Josiah Brown on February 26, 2008  11:18pm

Peter Stein is right to highlight the context: Lt. Sweeney was doing her job by responding to certain residents’ concerns.
Those concerns, too, are now in context, suggesting few in the neighborhood would accept blanket generalizations about young people or would necessarily scorn an enterprising offer to shovel snow.
Surely any of us could be criticized for a single remark.  In this instance when a qualification of the lieutenant’s statement was made, she immediately acknowledged it. This should not be personal, and we should never take for granted the challenges the police face.
Community policing is as much about the responsibilities of the community as it is about policing. Let’s emphasize the value of neighbors’ gathering to share information, to get acquainted (including across neighborhood boundaries), and to work with police on whom our city relies significantly. The more we know one another, the better - for public safety, for justice, and for our civic vitality.

posted by: Chris Gray on February 27, 2008  12:59am

Nuff said on the “stray” line.

As far as the traffic problem, I keep reading posts with wildly conflicting opinions about whether people think cops should ignore violators in favor of focusing on “real” crime or whether they should crack down on them.

The Lt. has got to be correct about the lack of staffing to handle the problem so I suggest the place to start is for the department to insist that their own personnel follow the rules of the road (outside of the need to respond to emergencies with sirens and lights) and then, at least, police themselves.

Over many years I have seen far too many “blue & whites” blow through stop signs and traffic lights to believe this is a department policy.

posted by: Sally Tamarkin on February 27, 2008  6:38am

KIDS ARE OFFERING TO SHOVEL PEOPLE’S DRIVEWAYS?

OH MY GOD!!

THEY ARE RETURNING REPEATEDLY TO ASK FOR MORE WORK?

THIS IS INSANITY!!!

THEY COME TO THE BACK DOOR?

THE HORROR!!!!!!!!

———-

I agree, Josiah Brown, that this issue is larger than the one comment or the person who made it. But that doesn’t mean we sweep it under the rug and re-focus the discussion on how great it is that neighbors get together to talk about their concerns. The officer’s remark is troubling no matter how much work she does with youth. Actually, it makes it worse if she works with youth and then makes comments like this. 

But it’s not just the remark that is troubling. It’s the whole conversation—the neighbors’ concerns bring to light in yet another way how our City views and treats its kids in general. The kids from the Annex blamed for muggings, people feeling threatened by kids in the summer riding bikes. We really have two New Havens. I think it’s sad.

posted by: cedarhillresident on February 27, 2008  8:09am

Ok I am not standing up for the comment made again it was wrong. But I would like to think the times I have delt with Rebecca that she is a genuine person that truly does care. She goes far beyond what her job calls for.
Lets look at the comment.. yes it was wrong but, she was responding to people that actually were Complaining to her about kids coming to there door for odd jobs. And the fact that people are even calling the police on the issue. And lets remember she had just come from a shooting and was with the officer involved. I am sure the realization of being a cop was on her mind at the time and not the fact that kids want to do odd jobs keep coming back. So she more or less said then don’t hire them. And I again know one of the kids that was coming to your doors. And he is one of the finest young men I know he does work in our greenspace program! Still the wording was wrong.

posted by: Ned on February 27, 2008  10:36am

If you don’t want people coming to your back door, put up a fence around your yard with a locked gate - that was hard wasn’t it?  (pay the kids to dig the post holes!)  If you don’t want people coming to your front door, put up a “no soliciting” sign.  If the kids persist, give them the phone numbers of absentee landlords who never shovel or clear their sidewalks.

posted by: Kevin on February 27, 2008  11:03am

For the record, the kids I was discussing at the meeting were in fact looking for work. The sensitivity of my neighbors on Eld Street arose from the fact that there had been a burglary there a few days previously, in which a burglar had broken in the rear door of a home while the owner was there.

I also want to second Josiah Brown’s 2/26 remarks. I hope that the management team can be a forum where neighbors can raise their concerns regarding crime, traffic, etc. and work to make the neighborhood a better place.

Kevin McCarthy

posted by: Sling Blade on February 27, 2008  11:40pm

My youthful lawnmowing/snowshoveling/oddjob industriousness paid handsomely in the East Rock neighborhood. I did such a good job that one elderly Whitney Ave. woman had me do all her properties and another used to invite me in for fireside tea and pensive philosophical chats—I forced myself to respectfully decline her inappropriately generous offer to give me her deceased husband’s mint, loaded, black ‘64 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz (convertible) with the red leather interior but, much to my parents ‘surprise’, I did eventually accept her offer to loan me $750 towards my first car. Happy to say that even with the distraction of that insane ‘69 Camaro Z-28, along with everything else there is to potentially overwhelm a 16 year old, I paid her loan off on schedule (: )) Of course, she was right, with the cavernous trunk, the Caddy would have been a much more practical landscaping rig.

Some of my other customers turned out to be the real ‘strays’ though—the North Bank St. wiseguy mutt who stiffed me for some lawn mowings and sicced the local goons on me when I complained, the $5. bounced checks and the bigoted animal who changed her mind and wouldn’t pay AFTER shoveling her snow because a non-caucasian friend had helped…twice the work for nothing because, naturally, we had to shovel the snow back again.

These curs couldn’t crush youthful idealism—I once mowed the lawn of an Everit St. Holocaust survivor and fled before being paid…actually, his son is now a NH Police Officer who, perhaps like Lt. Sweeney, has cause to be wary of young neighborhood oddjobbers; after all, they may do the work for free!

posted by: Chris Gray on February 28, 2008  2:02am

Those were some great stories, Sling Blade!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 28, 2008  9:53am

At least these kids are here legal,How about the illegal people who some of you hire to work on your houses?

posted by: East Rockette on February 28, 2008  10:03am

Let’s not forget that the Wooster Sq/Eld St burglars who made life difficult for these odd-jobbing kids are STILL OUT THERE, despite an assurance days after the event that the police “had a suspect and were on the verge of making an arrest.”

Two witnesses who saw one of the burglars getting into his vehicle have apparently neither been interviewed nor shown pictures of the so-called suspect. Eld St residents saw two different people but the police still seem to think there is only one person to look for.

Sure, the Neighborhood Watch group is on a hair-trigger right now, which is bad for the kids who just want to make some money and help out (love your stories, Slingblade and Youth of New Haven). It’s not because we fear the kids as such, but because the guys who *kicked a door in and burgled a house in the middle of the afternoon* remain at large despite our best efforts, so we have to be extra cautious about unfamiliar faces in our midst and in our back yards. Duh.

I would LOVE to have the NHI follow this story up and ask the police just how imminent that arrest is, and how they managed to drop the ball so thoroughly when the burglars practically walked into their arms.

I agree that Lt Sweeney’s comment leaves an unpleasant taste and has racist overtones, regardless of its intent, and thus merits an apology. Here’s the thing though: we do have actual stray animals in our neighborhood, many of which we know by name and collectively keep an eye on. They are part of our community too, and that’s no bad thing.

Similarly, the odd-job kids, whoever they are, can become part of the community too. Neighborhood Watch works both ways: we alert each other to the good as well as the bad. If the kids strive to make a positive impression - stick to the front door, introduce yourself properly, leave a card with your name and number, put us in touch with your Moms and Dads, do a great job, and refrain from hassling people who don’t want your services - then we will happily pass on a recommendation amongst ourselves and you’ll have an odd-job for life, or at least a few years. Plus, good practice and some great references for college and future jobs.

posted by: Edward_H on February 29, 2008  9:47am

ROBN

Hey NHPD..if you were going to case a home for theft, would you do it on a SNOW DAY when the homeowner and kids are probably home and when you’d leave tracks if you crept through the backyard uninvited

Not saying these kids are up to no good. But thieves and criminals leave footprints in the snow all the time.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1840232,00.html

http://www.wsaz.com/newswestvirginia/headlines/16074442.html

The only kid I have been suspicious of was one who showed up asking to shovel snow but did not have a snow shovel with him.

Lt. Rebecca Sweeney’s comment was tactless and inelegant but not a big deal as far as I am concerned. All this commotion will do nothing but ensure the Lt. is less candid in the future