Dog takes bite out of crime

Pelham Gardens resident Connie Gianfrancesco (center), holding a certificate awarded to her for exercising her civic responsibility and seeking police attention, leading to the apprehension of a car thief, is joined by 49th Precinct Council president Joe Thompson, 49th Precinct commanding officer Deputy Inspector Kevin Collins, and Police Officer Chris Traumer. Collins holds an award given to Gianfrancesco’s dog for its part in the arrest. - Photo by Adam Bermudez

A Pelham Gardens woman and her dog took a bite out of crime, aiding the apprehension of a car thief.

After the dog cornered a suspect hiding in the backyard bushes of her apartment, Connie Gianfrancesco informed  49th Precinct Police Officer Chris Traumer, who put the culprit in cuffs. 

Gianfrancesco and her dog were honored for their heroics at a 49th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday, May 27, at Bronx House. 

“He deserves an award.  He’s a very good cop,” Traumer said.  “With all the arrests I have made, this is the first time I’ve seen a dog involved in an apprehension.”

The arrest marked the end of a long police chase, as officers from New Rochelle gave chase to the alleged car thief over the county line and into the Pelham Gardens community.

 New Rochelle police officers followed the suspect into the Bronx along the Hutchinson River Parkway, before exiting into Pelham Gardens. 

A helicopter from Westchester kept tabs on the unidentified suspect from the sky where it was joined by NYPD air surveillance and forces on the ground from the 49th Precinct, 47th Precinct, and NYPD Emergency Services Units.

At 2:15 p.m., Gianfrancesco still had no idea that someone was trespassing in her backyard.

“I heard a bunch of helicopters, but I didn’t get up yet,” she said. 

Then, the barking began, and Gianfrancesco knew something was amiss.

“When Madison barks, she barks for a reason,” said the concerned citizen, who proceeded to check the backyard.  “I said, what’s the matter with you?”

She remembered the dog moaned and gestured in the direction, and then she realized why. 

“I said to myself, ‘oh my God, there’s a guy in the bush,’” Gianfrancesco recalled, realizing her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her when the man said, “Shh…shut up,” to her and the dog.  

She hurried her pet behind a gate, but Madison was intent on keeping watch, and pushed the gate open to return to the bush. 

“What should I do, should I call a cop?” she said. “I thought, I don’t know if he’s got a gun or something.”

Luckily, Traumer was on foot nearby, and the woman approached the officer. 

“We heard at the station that this guy was dipping in and out of yards,” Traumer said.  “So, we decided to go out to look for the guy on foot.”

Traumer recalls Gianfrancesco calling him over, and saying in a whisper, “He’s in the back; my dog has him cornered.” 

The officers proceeded to arrest the suspect, who has been charged with auto theft in New Rochelle. 

Madison, an 8-year-old rottweiler, has acted in the public interest before.

Gianfrancesco recalls that a number of years ago, a neighbor’s house was being burglarized at two in the morning, and Madison’s barking alerted neighbors. 

Ever humble, Gianfrancesco sought no recognition.  “They wanted to give me an award, and I said I didn’t want it. I just didn’t want him to kill my dog,” she said.

Despite her humility, the precinct decided to honor the citizen and her furry friend at a recent precinct council meeting,

Traumer was equally thankful of the citizen’s quick action. 

“It was a nice thing to have a neighbor who cares enough to speak.” Traumer said. 

Madison was unavailable for comment.

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