Despite a spate of recent crimes against Yale students, a police-run seminar on safety in New Haven drew only one attendee Thursday night.
Officer Joe Avery of the New Haven Police Department’s Neighborhood Services sector spoke at the New Haven Public Library about ways for Elm City residents to improve their personal safety. Although he said the talk was aimed at Yale students, none attended, and the event drew only one city resident. Despite the poor turnout, Avery, accompanied by two Yale Police Department officers, presented tips for avoiding the most common crimes affecting the area.
Avery said he planned the seminar to be “geared for Yale students,” in light of recent burglaries, robberies and arrests in and around several of Yale’s residential colleges. Most recently, rooms in Timothy Dwight and Morse Colleges were burglarized last week.
Last weekend, the YPD arrested Donald Daluz, 35, and Kevin Smith, 21, for attempted burglaries near the Yale Bookstore and Dunham Laboratory, respectively.
Avery began his PowerPoint presentation and talk by providing an overview of New Haven’s neighborhoods, an explanation he thinks is especially important for freshmen who are unfamiliar with the city or with urban environments in general.
“My intention was to familiarize people with neighborhoods, too,” he said before the presentation.
Avery then addressed issues related to personal safety when walking in the city, particularly at night. His tips included maintaining eye contact when passing pedestrians on the street as a show of confidence and, more practically, to demonstrate they could recognize potential attackers.
Avery said students should plan safe routes, particularly in well-lit, well-traveled areas, and walk with groups.
He then discussed safety around sidewalk ATMs. One ATM on Broadway, Avery said, sees about two or three robberies every month, many of which result when patrons overtly count their withdrawn money.
But Avery said car thefts and thefts from automobiles are two of New Haven’s most prevalent crimes.
“We get so relaxed and so complacent in our own environments,” Avery said, advising that drivers not leave their keys in their cars and that they avoid leaving belongings where they can be seen through car windows.
In a public demonstration on Wednesday, Avery and one of the YPD officers at the talk demonstrated the ease with which thieves can break into cars to steal things, Avery said at the talk. In under 11 seconds he was able to “steal” a laptop and a GPS device from a car provided by the NHPD for the demonstration, he said.
The YPD officer who assisted Avery said he was surprised that someone reading in a car parked across the street showed no signs of hearing the window glass breaking or otherwise noticing the mock theft.
In a segment of the talk aimed specifically at Yale students, Avery said students often leave their rooms vulnerable to intrusion and theft.
“People are allowing access to dorm rooms,” he said.
He said students should take care to lock doors and windows, which he said are important safety measures, particularly on campuses.
The sole individual in attendance, Aaron Goode ’04, a member of Elm City Cycling, said he thinks the city can do a better job educating people about road rules for both drivers and cyclists. Goode said he attended Avery’s talk because he hoped to “put in the word” for cyclists’ concerns.
He said there is not enough sensitivity in the community toward bicyclists, and he would like to increase safety for bicyclists on the road.
“What can we do to make sure there’s more security out on the roads?” Goode said after the talk.
Goode said he has been in contact with YPD Chief James Perrotti about encouraging dialogue between police and the cycling community.
“I would gladly develop a program if I could figure out how to get people to come,” Avery said in response.
Avery said he was “disheartened” by what he thought was a lack of public interest in self-protection.
The small turnout at the event, he said, could have been due to the fact that the talk was held in downtown New Haven, a largely commercial area that he said tends to empty out in the evenings. Although he said he had not considered the idea of holding the talk on Yale’s campus, he said he would be open to doing so if the University invited him.
Last year, Avery held a meeting in City Hall that also had a similarly low attendance, he said.
The free-of-charge event had been publicized in the News and The New Haven Register, he said.
Avery said he intends to re-schedule the safety presentation in the hopes of attracting a larger audience.