Category Archives: Police

Marine Police Make A “Swell” Save

Today’s Westport Historical Society kayak trip to Cockenoe Island was not exactly a day at the beach. WHS executive director Sue Gold writes:

Our 5th annual trip was hardly smooth rowing, as we quickly found out once we were a half mile offshore.

The swells were high, even though no boats were in sight. We were about 25 strong, but although the spirit was willing, Mother Nature was not.

The scene from a previous Westport Historical Society kayak trip to Cockenoe Island. This year's weather was less pleasant.

The scene from a previous Westport Historical Society kayak trip to Cockenoe Island. This year’s weather was less pleasant.

Our 2-person kayak was overwhelmed by relentless waves. Though both of us are strong and seasoned boaters, we were captive to the water that quickly filled our boat. We were forced to evacuate, fortunately onto a nearby sandbar.

We were like drowned rats, cold and shivering in the water with a boat we had no way to bail out. Peter Jennings expertly handled his safety boat to get us out of the water, but it was Bob Myer of the Westport Marine Police Unit who saved the day.

He got the kayak in his motor boat, pulled us on board, covered me with a medical blanket (my teeth were chattering), and got us back to the marina safe and sound. He then went out and rescued others on the tour as well.

Everyone got back safely. We applaud the Westport Police Department, who are there in a heartbeat to provide the most caring, compassionate and exceptional service to all in need.

One of the Westport Police Marine Unit's 2 boats. (Photo/Westportct.gov)

One of the Westport Police Marine Unit’s 2 boats. (Photo/Westportct.gov)

PS: Once we got back and my partner tossed me the car keys from the boat — well, they never made it into my hands. They now lie on the bottom of the Sound.

Fortunately, a diver overheard our dilemma and said he’s happy to take a look next week and fetch them for us. The giving never stops.

Feral Cats: The Sequel

The infestation of feral cats in the Compo Beach neighborhood may be over.

According to Foti Koskinas — Westport Police Department deputy chief who, as one of his duties, oversees animal control — told “06880” today that he and several others are helping the homeowner who, to the dismay of neighbors, has provided food and shelter for up to 30 feral cats.

The owner is “working hard to do the right thing,” Koskinas reports.

Four cats have already been removed, and will be spayed. Then they’ll be relocated, away from the neighborhood.

When feral cats multiply, it's no day at the beach.

When feral cats multiply, it’s no day at the beach.

The owner is also collaborating with PAWS. That organization will trap 5 more cats, spay them, and relocate them to farms and barns.

The woman has agreed to feed only her personal cats — not strays — and to do so inside her home, not outside. She will also give up 1 rescue cat for adoption.

“We’re committing to helping her in any way we can,” Koskinas says. “The neighbors are helping too.”

Several neighbors contacted “06880” to offer praise for Koskinas, PAWS and the homeowner.

Sounds like a problem that — in more than one way — is almost “fixed.”

Safe!

You wouldn’t know it from the traffic whizzing by, drivers on cell phones, and bicyclists and runners who think nothing of exercising at 5 a.m. wearing all dark clothes, but Westport is one of the safest places in Connecticut.

There are only 2 safer municipalities out of all 37 with populations of at least 10,000, in fact. (They’re Darien and Greenwich. You had to ask.)

That’s the conclusion of Movoto, an online real estate brokerage that takes such surveys in an attempt to get publicity in places like blogs.

Hey, it worked.

Westport PoliceThe Movoto folks collected crime data from 2012 in 7 categories: murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and vehicle theft. They weighted crime rates so that murders, violent crimes and property crimes accounted for 30 percent each of the overall score, and total crimes made up 10 percent.

Westport had just 26 vehicle thefts, 1,014 thefts and 150 burglaries in 2012. There were 41 violent crimes “per 100,000 people,” though our population is 1/4 that.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe applauded Police Chief Dale Call and the rest of the Police Department, for their “presence, professionalism, skill and expertise” that are displayed every day.

“I am personally proud and grateful that the protection of all our citizens is the number one priority of this first class department,” he added, from the safety of his 3rd floor Town Hall office.

PS:  Connecticut is the 11th safest state in the nation. But it still makes sense to lock our doors.

(Here’s the link to the full “10 Safest Places in Connecticut” survey.)

Remembering Chris Hoffmann

Chris Hoffmann — a 2004 Staples graduate, active member of the Air Force Reserves and a Watchung, New Jersey police officer — was killed on Saturday in a motorcycle accident in that state. He was cut off by an unlicensed driver, in an unregistered car. Chris was 5 days short of his 29th birthday.

His family and many friends are devastated. His sister, Alexis Green, says, “the world has stood still.”

Christopher Hoffmann: proud police officer, family member and all-around great guy.

The many faces of Christopher Hoffmann.

Before joining the Watchung force, Chris was a special officer in Seaside Heights, and an aircraft mechanic at McGuire Air Force Base.

“My brother was finally at the point in his life where he had achieved everything he wanted,” Alexis says. “He had his dream job, and was looking into buying land to build a home. He was an amazing uncle and godfather to my 2 children. My heart aches for my brother. I would do anything to have him back.”

Vanessa Woolard — who attended Staples with Chris, and worked with him for 5 years at Swanky Frank’s — calls him “beyond an amazing person. He had a heart of gold. On the worst days at work, Chris had the ability to brighten anyone’s mood.

“I have silly memories, like trying to fry anything we could get our hands on — avocado, ketchup…  But Chris would always stay late to help me clean, and never got mad if I messed up an order. His compassionate and genuine nature were something the world will not be the same without.”

“Chris was an all-around nice guy,” adds Staples graduate Stephanie Halka.

“He was the type of friend that’s hard to find. Chris and my brother had a crew of 8, and a bond that can never be broken.”

(A Facebook page in his memory is titled “Justice for Officer Chris Hoffmann.” To leave an online condolence note, click on ColonialFuneralGroup.com.) 

Uncle and godfather Christopher Hoffmann, with Edmund Lloyd Green IV.

Uncle and godfather Christopher Hoffmann, with Edmund Lloyd Green IV.

 

Michael Barrett’s “Shoshana”

Authors are always told: “Write what you know.”

So why does Michael Barrett‘s 1st novel involve neo-Nazis protecting a Treblinka guard, now resettled in the US; a beautiful Mossad agent, and a professor named Morris?

Because — in one way or another — they’re all part of Barrett’s very intriguing life.

Michael Barrett (right) and friend.

Michael Barrett (right) and friend.

After graduating from Fairfield University as an English major, he spent 23 years with the Westport Police Department. He served as a detective, worked on the auto theft task force, and was a sketch artist who helped colleagues around the state nab rape and homicide suspects.

Barrett retired in 2000. He now owns a security firm, and consults with businesses like Mitchells. He also paints portraits, and plays jazz sax and flute.

The ex-cop was a longtime friend of the late Fairfield philosophy professor Morris Grossman. Barrett has always been interested in the Holocaust, and — though he’s not Jewish — he learned a lot of Jewish history from Grossman.

Including Treblinka. The detective spent years researching that Nazi extermination camp.

ShoshanaHis debut novel is Shoshana. Its intricate plot includes — in addition to “Morris” and Treblinka — a cop named Artie. He’s an accomplished portrait painter, who becomes a police composite artist.

The book is set in “Westcove,” Connecticut. Clearly, Michael Barrett has written about what he knows.

The book jacket says, “Artie confronts issues of morality, revenge, and the meaning of Jewish suffering through the ages.”

Just another day in the life of an ex-Westport cop.

(For more information, or to order Shoshana, click here.)

Driver Does Nice Thing. Pass It On.

Alert “06880” reader Cary Peterson writes:

Not long ago a card was left on my windshield, apologizing for accidentally scuffing my rear bumper and leaving a phone number. I never called Charles, just dabbed a bit of dealer pen paint onto the blemish on my bumper to see it disappear.

Note

Last week I took a key I found on Imperial Avenue (which had a tag saying SRC food trailer on it…Saugatuck Rowing Club?) to police headquarters, and added it to a pile of keys they have sitting on the counter. Many people have returned keys to the police station. There were loads of expensive electronic car keys there. I guess people aren’t aware of it.

Anyway, despite bad parking jobs, I think Westport’s cup is more than half full, with many people cleaning up the streets and building castles in the sand.

Westport’s Oral Histories: A True Hidden Treasure

It’s easy to overlook the tab at the top of the Westport Historical Society website.

“Oral History,” it says. You probably figure it provides a bit of info about whatever oral histories the WHS has collected.

But clicking it reveals nearly a dozen videos — all on YouTube, all waiting to provide 10-minute-to-an-hour chunks of intriguing Westport history. (Another 300 oral histories are on audiotape only.)

On camera, Jo Fox Brosious remembers the (thankfully successful) 1960’s fight to save Cockenoe Island from becoming a nuclear power plant. Close-to-centenarians Lee Greenberg and Elwood Betts recall the Westport of even longer ago.

(Click here if Katie Chase’s interview with Elwood Betts does not load directly from YouTube.)

Former police chief Ron Malone and former fire chief Harry Audley share stories. Shirley Mellor sits in Max’s Art Supplies, describing the importance of the store to Westport’s artists’ colony.

Other oral histories explore our literary heritage, community garden, oystering and more.

Each year, the Historical Society runs a tour of Westport’s hidden gardens. Visitors to Wheeler House — the WHS’ historic home across from Town Hall — constantly revel in the surprises they find there.

These oral histories are one more treasure — hidden in plain sight, at the top of their site.

(Click here to go directly to the Westport Historical Society’s Oral History page. Videos are also available for puchase, at $10 each.)

(Click here if Allen Raymond’s interview of Ron Malone does not load directly from YouTube.)

 

While You And I Slept This Morning…

…Kelly Konstanty, Morgan Mermagen and Mike Grant were on the run.

The trio ran through Westport, in Stage 315 of the One Run for Boston. The charity event — for One Fund Boston, which supports victims of last year’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing — began March 16 in Los Angeles. It ends tomorrow in Massachusetts, a week before the Marathon.

So far, over $410,000 has been raised, by 1,990 runners.

Morgan Mermagen, Mike Grant and Kelly Konstanty, after finishing their Westport to Bridgeport run.

Morgan Mermagen, Mike Grant and Kelly Konstanty, after finishing their Westport to Bridgeport run.

The trio received the baton downtown, around 4:30 a.m., from a group that started in Darien. Kelly, Morgan and Mike ran to Bridgeport, arriving there around 6:05.

Kelly has run the Boston Marathon before, but can’t this year. This is her way of showing support for “Boston Strong.” 

Grant adds, “If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target. We run for those who can’t.”

The runners thanked the Westport Police for their escort, and their supporters who cheered them on.

Congratulations, Kelly, Morgan and Mike. You did more before dawn today than many of us will achieve all weekend!

What Would You Do?

Ask.fm is the latest post-anything website both beloved and hated by teenagers. Its anonymous question-and-answer format allows — if not encourages — abusive, bullying content. (The site was referenced in news reports of the suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl.)

I know this because a Westport parent told me about Ask.fm, and described its use by middle school students here.

Ask fmThe bullying of the parent’s child (and a friend who stood up for the child) peaked this winter, with repeated references to school events. The child went to  administrators, who after an investigation said that one perpetrator had been identified. An official said the bully was remorseful, and an apology would be forthcoming.

It never came.

The parent and child were uneasy. Neither knew which classmate had been behind the bullying, or which of the parent’s adult friends were helping that child hide behind the legal right of anonymity for juveniles.

“You know who punches you in the face on the playground,” the parent says. “But today’s technology allows this to be the perfect crime.”

The parent considered going to the police. Anonymity would still be honored, but in the parent’s words, “the process would be the punishment.”

After all, the parent says, “this family hasn’t had the moxie to come forward. We don’t even know if they punished their child.”

Bullying 3

The parent does not know if going to the police is the right thing to do. Is it overkill? If so, is overkill worth getting some satisfaction of knowing something happened — even if the parents never learn what (or even who) was involved?

The parent wants to know what “06880” readers think. Should the parents of the bully have stepped up and apologized — or made their child do so? Should the police be involved? Are there other options?

Click “Comments” to weigh in. And — unlike Ask.fm — please use your real name.

“We Rob Banks”

In 1968 — a few months after the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” swept the nation — a few Staples seniors and friends thought it would be cool to imitate the legendary outlaws.

The high school campus was open; students came and went as they pleased during free periods (and sometimes during not-so-frees). It was spring; giddiness filled the air. Hey, why not?!

Five guys dressed up like ’20s gangsters. They drove downtown, sauntered into Westport Bank & Trust — now Patagonia — and, with a “getaway car” idling outside, pulled out a fake .38 pistol and said, “Stick ‘em up!”

Ha ha!

A few customers scrambled for cover. The tellers didn’t know what to think, but eventually realized it was just a prank. Cops were called, and hauled the Gang of 5 across the street to the police station.

The Westport Town Crier covered the “let’s pretend” robbery jovially. They described the teenagers’ suits and fedoras in detail.

Times sure have changed. Banks — not to mention the ATF, FBI and NSA — don’t look kindly on fake stick-ups.

If this stunt happened today, a full-scale investigation would be held. School administrators and the Board of Education can’t have kids dressed as bank robbers leaving school in the middle of the day, then pretending to rob a bank.

And the Westport Police would certainly not allow 5 teenagers, dressed in fedoras and holding cigarettes, to pose jauntily in the station lobby, looking like they’ve just pulled off the heist of the century.

The Town Crier photo of (from left) Thomas Skinner, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Simonds, Frank Rawlinson and Anthony Dohanos. Anthony posted the photo on Facebook. He now lives in Hawaiii -- far from the scene of the "crime."

The Town Crier photo of (from left) Thomas Skinner, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Simonds, Frank Rawlinson and Anthony Dohanos. Anthony posted the photo on Facebook. He now lives in Hawaiii — far from the scene of the “crime.”