Ariela Lopez, Contributing Photographer

Yale police union trucks returned to campus on Monday, circling Old Campus from College Street to York Street, as students admitted to the Yale College class of 2028 settled in for Bulldog Days.

The trucks, which first appeared around 1:15 p.m., featured electronic billboards on the side that flashed four different blue-and yellow-colored messages, including “Yale: Support Your Police” and “Yale: $41 Billion Endowment But Offers 1.75% Wage Increase.”

Yale’s police union, the Yale Police Benevolent Association, has been locked in hostile negotiations with the University for 14 months and pledged last month that they would take “full advantage” of the increased spotlight of Bulldog Days.  

Cameron Davis, a high school student attending Bulldog Days, saw the truck on College Street while entering Old Campus for the first time through Phelps Gate.

“New Haven definitely has a reputation of being kind of unsafe,” Davis said. “The truck said it was the number one most unsafe city which reminded me to keep my guard up, although that wasn’t a deterrent from coming to Yale.”

While New Haven had the highest property crime rate in the state according to 2022 FBI data, Hartford led the state in violent crime rate. 

Mike Hall, the union’s president, told the News that the YPBA has paid for advertising trucks around four to five times this year, including during first-year move-in in August and parents’ weekend.

“We thought today, this week in particular, was a productive day to do it,” Hall said. “Prospective students with parents, the Yale Corporation, there’ll be lots of eyes on the truck for the next few days.”

The Corporation, Yale’s highest governing body, will meet Saturday amid a prolonged search for the University’s next president. 

Hall said that the trucks were a “tremendous way” to get the union’s message across because they attract media attention. He told the News that the trucks would return tomorrow, and the union would also be passing out flyers to prospective students.

“It is of the utmost importance to note that no matter the negotiations, all parties are committed to and focused on the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and visitors,” Joe Sarno, Yale’s director of labor relations, wrote in a statement to the News. “This remains our top priority.”

A driver of one of the trucks told the News that two drivers were hired to circle the University on Monday and Tuesday. The driver who was hired said that he is not a member of the YPBA.

The trucks’ messages called for a strong Yale police force, saying that New Haven is a dangerous city. One of the messages read “New Haven: #1 Most Dangerous City in Connecticut.” Another said, “Support Yale Police: In 2023 Police Shot-Spotter Detected Over 2,574 Gunshots Fired In The City Of New Haven.” 

There have been 273 confirmed shots fired from Jan. 1 to Dec. 17, 2023, down from 294 in 2022, according to public crime records from the New Haven Police Department. In downtown New Haven, the NHPD recorded six confirmed shots in 2023. 

Hall said that the messages displayed on the trucks were “known facts” pulled from NHPD records and general news coverage of the city.

The police union has attempted to publicly brand New Haven as a dangerous city during the past four collective bargaining periods, dating back to 2003. YPBA demonstrations have historically coincided with events for new or prospective students and their families. 

This August, in a move harshly criticized by University and city officials, the YPBA distributed “Survival Guides” leaflets to first-years and their families on move-in day, warning of increasing crime in New Haven. 

On these flyers, too, the union used crime statistics, such as rising homicides, to point to rising insecurity in New Haven. At the time, Mayor Justin Elicker accused the union of cherry-picking select crimes recorded in a small six-month time frame to present an “offensive” narrative of the city. Both violent and property crime had been on the decline for the past three years and crime trends in New Haven were not reflective of those in downtown New Haven, where Yale’s main campus is located, he said. 

Admitted student Cameron Davis said that an increased police presence would make students feel more safe on campus.

Aaron Yang, another admitted student, said that the trucks did not make him more hesitant to engage with New Haven and found their presence amusing. 

“I’m from Georgia so this doesn’t seem as bad compared to Atlanta,” Yang said. “So I’m like, yeah whatever.”

Admitted student Sharon Chang said she found it “interesting” that the union chose to spread its message as the admitted students select their college. 

Chang said that safety was one of her priorities in choosing a college and that she was a little hesitant to choose Yale because of it. 

Both the YPBA and the University have publicly denounced the other party’s proposals during this contentious contract cycle. YPBA members have rallied against Yale’s proposed 1.75-percent wage increase proposal for months, while Sarno has repeatedly criticized the union’s attempt to place a statute of limitations on civilian complaints against police misconduct. 

The YPBA ratified its last contracts after 28 months of negotiations with the University. 

Kaitlyn Pohly and Christina Lee contributed reporting.

Laura Ospina covers Yale-New Haven relations and the Latine community for the City desk. Originally from North Carolina's Research Triangle, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science.
Ariela Lopez covers City Hall and City Politics. Originally from New York City, she is a first-year in Branford College.