The City of Hills

12 p.m. traffic jam on New Main Street, downtown by Yonkers City Hall and Getty Square. Buses, cars–wintry, congested Monday hell. Over the past January, the northeast experienced the coldest weather in recent years. A Polar Vortex has caused temperatures in southern New York to drop below 0 degrees, with frostbite and hypothermia warnings becoming daily reminders.

A voice coming through the radio says it’s 24 degrees, as the squad car pulls up across from the corner of Ann Street. A sagging curb is covered in black snow—the same curb that sits in front of a parking garage a few blocks away from a homeless shelter. It’s the same garage where an elderly homeless man froze to death in one of the stairwells earlier that January. The man hung out at a nearby liquor store where he cut up boxes in exchange for a few dollars. There are no newspapers bearing his obituary. His name, says O’Brien, was Joe Tirelli.

A call comes through the police officer’s car radio about a tripped alarm. It was lunchtime for some, so the call seemed strange. Probably an accident, the officer said, but it could really be anything. As it goes.

12:12 p.m. Another call comes in about an alleged shoplifter. We are driving away from the curb and the parking garage, away from the store with the tripped alarm–a customer had gotten loud with the cashier–to continue on my ride-along tour of the city.

“…Suspect on foot. Just knocked down an elderly woman…Suspect running north…”
And then another call:
“…Abandoned car dumped… Caller says it has no tags, no plates…”
And another:
“Hit and run on Locust…”

The slush of two-day old snow slips underneath the police car’s tires as we descend the steep Locust Hill Avenue toward Getty Square.

It was a burglary on New Main Street. Woman shoved the owner of a beauty supply store and elderly bystander as she ran out of the store. In her hand were two Eos lip balms–each priced at $3.99. The suspect is a middle-aged, overweight African-American woman, with mahogany skin and a short ponytail. She is wearing a light pink sweater under a black down coat, and faded blue jeans. Brown satin purse.

“It’s a robbery because she pushed the owner and elderly woman,” says one of the responding officers, “over two lip balms.” He laughs.

After officers apprehend the suspect, we ride over to the scene of the crime to see if the older woman is hurt and wait for the Crime Scene Unit to arrive. The woman who was shoved says she is fine and refuses medical attention.