Historic Wooster Square is considered by most to be one of the New Haven’s safest neighborhoods, but amidst a recent spike in crime in the neighborhood, resident Emily Ferrigno said she is moving out. And she is not alone.
“[The break-ins] make the police look helpless,” Ferrigno said. “It makes the people living here look helpless.”
Other Wooster residents have voiced concern in response to the crime spree: there have been 47 reported cases of car break-ins or car vandalism in the area in the past week alone, as of Monday evening. Wooster block watch Chairman Ben Yousey-Hindes said in an e-mail to the watch on Monday that Lieutenant Rebecca Sweeney, the New Haven Police Department’s district manager for downtown and Wooster Square, had assured him that police are aware of the problem.
Yousey-Hindes said police are using new tactics to reduce the crime and are investigating the newly reported incidents, which is not typically done for car break-ins.
“I know that this is not a priority because it’s not violent crime,” Ferrigno said. “They have bigger fish to fry. But it’s an image problem. It’s a morale problem.”
Though in the past, break-ins have not warranted much attention, authorities are now increasing foot, bike and squad car patrols and are looking for patterns in the crime data, Yousey-Hindes said.
Ferrigno, a library services assistant in the Sterling music library, said she even personally witnessed a break-in about six weeks ago on a Friday evening and she is now, because of the crime situation, is leaving the neighborhood and heading to East Rock.
But she might not have better luck there.
While East Rock is not experiencing as striking a crime spike as Wooster, car break-ins are on the rise there as well. The neighborhood has witnessed 11 break-in incidents in the last week, prompting police to send an e-mail alert to residents warning them to take precautions, the New Haven Register reported.
But the crime in Wooster, where many graduate students live, chases other residents even farther away. Amanda Sherman, a former resident of Wooster Square, said she moved to Morris Cove because of the area’s rising crime rates. She said her roommate’s car had been broken into about a year and a half ago and Sherman would witness eleven-year-old kids walking up and down the streets peering in the cars after school. Although Sherman said she does not like her new apartment as much, she added her safety and sanity are more important to her.
“The crime was just crazy,” she said. “I had to get out.”
Jane Scarpellino, who has lived in Wooster Square for 65 years, said she always considered the neighborhood to be safe. But lately, she said, the number of break-ins is troubling.
“Many [people] may consider not moving here when the neighborhood gets a bad reputation,” she said.
Scarpellino, who has worked in real-estate and mortgages, said property owners could help catch criminals and avoid crimes by posting private property signs to stop people walking or biking through.
Sweeney told the Register that the downtown area and Wooster Square normally witness an average of 14 vehicle break-ins a month, nothing comparable to the scope of the break-ins during the past week.
“We haven’t really seen an uptick downtown,” said Rena Masten Leddy, executive director of town green special services.
Jennifer Kelly, one of the family owners of Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, said most of the break-ins occur in the early morning hours when police patrol is at a low.
“It’s unfortunate that today the economy is so bad and people are so desperate,” she said.
But Scarpellino said that while most break-ins occur late at night, she has heard cases of car vandalism as early as 1pm.
While the siege of break-ins last week came on an unprecedented scope, Wooster has experienced waves of break-ins in the past. Last January and February, the area saw an increase which peaked at four break-ins in a single night. Karri Brady of the block watch said at the time that the “smash and grab” break-ins were targeting GPS units, easily stolen and sold for cash.
The Block Watch encourages residents to remove any valuables from their cars and to park in well-lit areas.
The police received reports 25 incidents of car break-ins or vandalism in Wooster square last weekend.