For a Yale Police Department patrolman, it is never clear how a weekend night on patrol will turn out.
While many Yale students see YPD officers walking through the Broadway district or patrolling in cars up and down major thoroughfares like Chapel and Elm streets, there is much more to a night patrol than meets most students’ eyes. Patrols cover the area including the campus, the hospital and the area near East Rock where many graduate students live, YPD Lt. Joseph Vitale said. The YPD employs seven to nine officers at any given time to ensure the safety of not just students and faculty, but the surrounding community as a whole, he added.
“Yale is not a building with an entrance and an exit,” Vitale, who runs the patrol division, said. “It is part of the New Haven community.”
When Vitale goes on patrol, he takes an unmarked car and drives through the entire area covered by the YPD: as far south as the Amistad area; as far north as the Science Hill East Rock neighborhood; to the west near Park, Howe and Dwight streets; east to the Green; and then finally north to Whitney Avenue. If he were a regular patrolman, he would remain in either the northern half or the southern half of the campus, Vitale said.
For the YPD, the campus’s dividing line is Elm Street, spokesman Lt. Steven Woznyk said in an e-mail. When an incident occurs, a department computer assigns an officer to it based on which quadrant he or she is assigned, he added.
Officer assignments and the specific routes are handled by the supervisors for a shift, Vitale said. Other locations that are not within the designated patrol area, such as the Yale Bowl, are also checked two or three times each evening, he added.
But patrol officers are not consigned to their cars when on duty, Vitale said. The YPD encourages officers to park their vehicles and walk among memebers of the community, he said.
“It’s nice to have the cops interact with the public,” Vitale said.
As a lifelong resident of New Haven, he said he has a vested interest in the well-being of the city as a whole.
Lt. Rebecca Sweeney, the NHPD downtown district manager, maintains a close relationship with Vitale and the rest of the department, he said, and they regularly share reports and coordinate efforts.
This cooperation is evident on Broadway, where NHPD and YPD patrol officers both maintain a presence, he said. Toad’s, a local dance club and concert venue on York Street, hires a NHPD detail to park in front of the entrance for its Saturday night parties.
The cooperation between the departments also extends to community outreach; both NHPD and YPD officers met with students last week in Berkeley College for a pizza study break and an open discussion of police-community relations.
At that meeting, Christine Sandy GRD ’93, a YPD officer, said that although she had never had a negative interaction with a Yale student, she thinks that student-police interactions are contentious about half the time.
Despite occasional points of contention, Vitale said, he feels the YPD is succeeding in its mission to safeguard the community. Vitale had a quiet night on Saturday’s patrol, and he went home a little earlier than he had originally intended.
“The cause of this [quiet evening] is because of what we do,” he said. “The system is working.”
The YPD is currently led by Interim Director of Public Safety James Lewis, but a search for a new chief began three weeks ago.