The new top cop in Westville/West Hills is hearing from neighbors demanding solutions to an uptick of crime in the neighborhood.
Lt. Rose Dell, the new top cop in the district, got an earful during the Westville/West Hills Community Management Team meeting at Mauro-Sheridan School Wednesday night from neighbors alarmed by recent muggings on McKinley Avenue, an attempted child abduction, numerous car break-ins, and yet another violent incident at Roosevelt’s Restaurant & Bar in Westville Village.
Wednesday was Dell’s third day on the job. She assured neighbors that she asked for and received resources to help fight crime in the neighborhood. She told neighbors that there is a lead on the muggings; police were able to get the dropped cellphone of an assailant after a tussle with the neighbor he tried to mug.
“We don’t think it’s one kid, but a ring of thieves,” Dell said.
She told them that after spending a couple of weeks reading all the reports, she knows neighbors aren’t wrong in how they perceive what’s happening in the district, which includes Westville, Amity, West Hills, and West Rock. Crime is definitely up. Violent crime, in particular, is up about 43.8 percent over this time last year.
Click here to read a write-up Dell prepared for the neighborhood about recent incidents.
Dell said detectives will come out to get fingerprints from vehicle break-ins; she urged neighbors to remember to remove their valuables from their cars and lock their car doors, noting that most of the break-ins were in cars that had not been locked.
She also said that the department has given her a D-squad officer, or an officer who works the 7 p.m. to 3 a.m shift. She said she hopes that will discourage some of the more violent patrons to stay away from Roosevelt’s. That officer is the only one who works that shift for the entire city.
Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, police had responded to the third reported violent incident this year at Roosevelt’s: A man with a valid pistol permit fired at a car during an altercation with the driver, amid a crowd that was outside the bar. At closing time on Sept. 22, someone was shot in the leg. Click here to read about an incident in May and the owner’s promises to run a tighter ship.
Dell told neighbors Monday night that officers have leads on the two Roosevelt patrons involved in Wednesday’s incident. No arrests have been made, but the 25-year-old Hamden man who fired the gun is cooperating with officers and told them that another man had attempted to run him over with his car.
The shooter, a valid pistol permit holder, told police that he thought he was in danger and that’s why he shot at the other driver. Police have video evidence of the incident that corroborates that story. The case remains under investigation. This is the third violent Roosevelt’s-related incident this year.
Dell said that she and her predecessor Lt. Manmeet Colon, went to the state Liquor Commission in hopes of having the owner’s license non-renewed but were unsuccessful. She told neighbors that they could petition to have the license revoked.
A neighbor who preferred not to be identified circulated the petition at Wednesday meeting noting that he thought that the owner had done things to try curb the violence like instituting a no hoodies policy and hiring extra duty officers. But he said nothing has worked. Unlike New West Cafe, which is directly on Whalley Avenue, Roosevelt’s is tucked away in an area where there isn’t much light and where people can hang in the parking lot after the bar closes at 2 a.m.
“It was the same problem with the Owl’s Nest,” he said. “The problem is it’s not safe for his patrons and it’s not safe for the neighborhood.”
Neighbor Sheila Carmon said the rash of car break-ins and neighborhood muggings have been really scary. She has lived in her home for 20 years. She described recently seeing two people walking through her backyard, which she keeps “lit up like daytime.” She called it “pretty brazen.”
Erica Garcia Young said brazen is exactly how she would describe the man and woman who approached a 10-year-old boy in what his parents believed was an attempted abduction. The boy’s mother was nearby when it happened and intervened. A similar report was made to police about a man approaching a 10-year-old girl at her bus stop on Lodge Street, according to police reports.
“It’s scary,” Young said. “I have a daughter who walks home. How are kids supposed to get home safe?”
Young said the police response to this incident was pretty lackluster in her opinion.
“The officer’s response was, ‘It’s a good thing you were there,’” she said. “Can you imagine a mom hearing that?”
Neighbor Rosie Jacobs got a similar response from police after someone broke into her garage. She said it was her perception that the officer barely wanted to get out of the car to take the report.
Dell apologized for the lackluster responses and tried to reassure neighbors that the police department is deploying as many resources as it can to address the problems that have come up. But she also urged neighbors to be vigilant.
“The police can’t be everywhere,” she said. “You have to know who should be in your neighborhood. If you see someone suspicious, call us.”
Other solutions offered by neighbors Wednesday night included installing blue light emergency boxes, more active block watches, and neighbors more proactively using their cell phones to capture video when they see suspicious activity.
Neighbor Janis Underwood suggested that parents do what she did: trace the route to school and ask neighbors to be a safe stop that kids know and can immediately run to if they ever feel unsafe.
Westville Alder Adam Marchand said he plans to host a forum for neighbors to talk specifically about crime soon.