Koskinas On Carjacking, Car Thefts, What Cops Can And Can’t Do

Yesterday’s daylight carjacking in the garage of a Bayberry Lane home surprised and shook many Westporters.

One man was not surprised: Police Chief Foti Koskinas.

With the rise in car thefts and break-ins around town — always of unlocked vehicles — he’s feared an escalation like this was coming.

He’s also frustrated. He followed the stolen vehicle from I-95 exit 19 to Route 8 exit 27, where he had to stop.

Two carjackers surround the driver of an Aston Martin in his Bayberry Lane garage yesterday.

The carjacking — with an assault on the driver, in his vehicle in his own garage — is different from the “property crimes” of break-ins and thefts.

Early this morning — after being up all night — Koskinas discussed both with “06880.”

“There is a level of frustration, as a department,” the chief said. “There’s not much we can do initially,” when officers respond to a break-in or theft.

“We do all the follow-up. We try to get DNA, and lift fingerprints. We have an officer on an Auto Theft Task Force with area towns. They’ve recovered cars, and guns.”

But the problem starts with cars that are left unlocked in driveways, or open garages — often with the keys, fobs and/or valuables in plain sight.

None of the car thefts have involved jump starts or punched ignitions, Koskinas said.

The carjacking was different. Two men followed the victim — driving an Aston Martin — home, then assaulted him and stole his car.

They followed him in 2 vehicles that they had stolen previously.

When Koskinas saw the Aston Martin, he followed it on and off the highway.

The drivers “were taunting me — baiting me,” Koskinas said. “They were not afraid.” Eventually — due to heavy traffic, and the potential for an accident — the chief had to back off.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Those were legitimate concerns after a carjacking. Connecticut laws on pursuit following a property theft — an unlocked car, for example — are even more restrictive.

“It makes sense. You don’t want to injure or kill someone — the car thief or anyone else — after a property crime.”

But to not give officers the latitude to make that decision in the middle of the night, when there is very light traffic, for example, is frustrating.

So is the knowledge that catching car thieves — many of whom are juveniles — is almost fruitless.

The official age of “juveniles” was raised years ago, from 16 to 18. Juveniles caught now are released within hours, Koskinas said — even if they have multiple charges already pending. It’s almost like fishermen’s “catch and release.”

“The court system is overwhelmed,” Koskinas said. “They’re still backlogged with pre-COVID cases. And young people know what the police can and can’t do.”

He noted that the consequences for yesterday’s crime — if the carjackers are caught — are much more serious than a simple car theft.

“I try not to do politics,” Koskinas said. “But every time I hear a politician touting that jails are empty and crime is down — well, it’s not true. The hands of the police are tied.

“People talk about holding police accountable for their actions. They should. In Westport, we hold ourselves to the highest standard. But society has to be held accountable too. There’s a balance.

“Its extremely frustrating,” Koskinas continued. “These guys know if they come to Westport, they’ll be successful. So they come, the word gets out, and they come back and bring others. They have a high rate of success here, stealing very nice cars.”

Westport police recover almost 100% of cars — often with extensive damage. The stolen cars don’t go to chop shops, or overseas, the chief says.

They’re used to commit other crimes: robberies, street crimes, gang-related shootings in other cities.

Koskinas has increased patrols at times when crimes happen. He’ll continue to do so.

Koskinas is heartened that every town official — from “the selectwoman’s office to the newest RTM member” — has supported his requests. “My hands have never been tied,” he said.

But, he noted, “we have 10,000 or 11,000 homes in town. Yesterday, 2 people followed someone home. Having another 10 officers might have helped after this happened, but it wouldn’t have stopped it before.”

So what can Westporters do? Be very careful of your surroundings. Call the police — any time — when something looks or feels suspicious.

And park your cars in locked garages. If they must be outdoors, put them in well-lit areas, with keys, fobs and all valuables safely inside your home.

Thieves go where they’ll be most successful. The harder we make it for them in Westport, the less chance they’ll keep coming back.

37 responses to “Koskinas On Carjacking, Car Thefts, What Cops Can And Can’t Do

  1. Thanks, Chief Kosinskas! In addition to locking your car and taking keys & valuables at home and elsewhere, lock it when you are getting self service gas – another easy target for thieves.

  2. So violent carjackers can’t be pursued by police if they speed away? Doesn’t this make all of us more of a potential target? Something is terribly wrong…

  3. Can we know more about the identity of the juveniles, so we that we can exercise caution in the future?

    • Look at the guy on the left- white sneakers and his pants worn so low that 80% of his butt is showing. That’s a start! Publish the photo in the Waterbury paper.

  4. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    Dont blame the Cops, blame the liberal ‘easy on the criminals’ lawmakers AND the people that vote for them… it will only get worse.

  5. It’s all about the haves versus the have nots. The people who have tend not to be cautious enough about their surroundings and the have nots want to ruin the days of the haves. They are jealous and hungry for what they don’t have. Those that have need to be more diligent about not flaunting their wealth and not being entitled to having what they have and not locking up everything carefully. It’s happening all around the country. We all Just need to be more diligent about not being careless. This will help the cops!

  6. Jack Independent Backiel

    If Trump gets re-elected, he’s pardoning the majority of the January 6th rioters who got convicted#Softoncrime.

  7. Thanks Chief for your well articulated response to this incident. I’m pretty sure that the general public is unaware of the restrictions placed upon law enforcement by our legislators. I suspect that you were beyond frustrated having that car(s) in sight yesterday. From what I see and read I’m betting that your extremely talented Detective Bureau will bring this to a successful conclusion. Thanks again..

  8. Could they have engaged, at the time, the State police and the Naugatuck / Waterbury police forces in this matter to help catch the people behind this crime… and not just rely on the police in town?

    • Tim, of course all area police were alerted.

      • Thanks for clarifying; from the article, the task force co-operation was coming across as “following the chase” not “during it.” I’m impressed that Westport police recover almost 100% of cars. That’s an outstanding record. I’m glad the Westporter wasn’t significantly injured and that he’s almost assuredly getting his vehicle back.

  9. Keeping all your valuables inside unfortunately doesn’t work.
    Despite an alarm system and all our valuables in a safe, we were the victim of a terrible home robbery in which they removed our
    350 pound safe. And we are by no means the only ones
    this has happened to in town

  10. Property loss is one thing, many times preventable by simply locking the vehicle and not leaving the keys inside, but the bigger issue in my mind is the vehicle being used in further commission of crimes in the hours, days, weeks that follow the theft. I am going to guess tha the bmw that was along for the theft was stolen too. This presents great danger to pedestrians and others driving on the roads. Police should be able to use all means necessary to stop a felony in progress. It’s hard to fathom how a coordinated approach couldnt have gotten police strategically placed ahead , to corner these felons.

  11. I’ve commented on the story two weeks ago, same here. Until there are consequences and police are provided with stronger options, this will continue to get worse. People move to westport to feel and be safe, yet here we are having this discussion again and as they say, a broken record and a broken system. We have representation in Hartford and DC, so please be vocal. I agree we need to do our part however, in concert with the police and our laws doing their part. The car jacking is taking it to a new level and way more dangerous.

  12. We are lucky and blessed with such PROACTIVE law enforcement in our town.

    We can all point fingers to the criminals but ourselves are to blame for continuously taking for granted the security features of our cars, leaving them unlocked with belongings and keys in it.

    We have painted a bullseye on our neighbors with every negligent thought of, “they won’t come to our house,” “I’m just running in for a second,” “I don’t feel like going out to get the keys.”

    We have given these ruthless reckless low lives a reason to keep coming back, and to abuse the new laws that clip the wings of law enforcement from…enforcing.

    Majority of us moved here from large cities to get away from the crime and corruption, but he we are trying to prevent that from happening here.

    Some have never owned a car let alone a license and see Westport as an impenetrable town…that’s disappearing with every negligent act of leaving keys and valuables unattended.

    Our department of 64 officers put their lives on the line to protect and restore/keep order and should have their benefits and security 100% protected and let them do their friggin jobs without Hartford stepping in, particularly, poorly ran cities dictating how we should build and conduct ourselves.

    With that being said, the Police Accountability law needs to be reworked while incorporating the standards and practices that have been in place since the 1980s. This all started with the riots from George Floyd, and legislation was enacted blanketing great officers and departments because of a poorly ran department with terrible officers.

    Call me pro-police, I am proactive and realistic. Criminals run even when they’re not being chased, criminals run because they know they broke the law and are playing Grand Theft Auto 5 in real life.

    Stay tuned for a Town Forum.

  13. Remember as a kid back in the day, when there were “consequences” for your actions?

    You screwed up at school, you went to Vice Principals office, he or she laid it out, you accepted the punishment, and asked “politely, please don’t call my parents.”

    You get a DWI in this state, you pay. The legislature got this one right. The cost in lawyer fees is the just the beginning, Classes, breathalyzer in car before you can start it, probation, etc.

    We use Ubers and other means of transportation, as the “consequences” of drinking and driving are there to protect everyone. No arguments from anyone…

    You steal a car, and get caught. You post bail, and you are out. If you are a minor, it’s just “catch and release.”

    You can’t drive with an open beer, but you can drive smoking marijuana, just don’t cross the yellow. It’s against the law to high and driving, but there really is no roadside test.

    Tail light out? Don’t worry about, you can’t get pulled over for that anymore. We all know, it’s already absolutely impossible for police to search a vehicle anymore, even at a rare chance a car gets pulled over.

    Just because progressive laws have been implemented to hand cuff our police from “preemptive policing,” doesn’t mean the bad guys stay home.

    In fact as we have seen, the bad guys have upped their game. Now stolen cars like Range Rovers are now used to at private homes to commit more crimes. The criminal is not stupid, they know the law.

    We can add more police, but I don’t know if that will do much good if the “consequences” of the crime continues to be minimal.

    In my opinion the Progressive Left of the CT Legislature needs to really re-evaluate The Police Accountability Bill. It is time to correct the flaws in these laws with the help of our Police Chiefs, State Attorneys, and the public.

    “Consequences for bad actions sometime can be the best deterrent for preventing bad endings”

  14. It is my understanding that serious car thieves and those did not look like juveniles looking for fun…
    I’m sure the plan was for that Aston Martin to end up at a dock on a shipping container, but now they put gps tracking devices on cars they are interested in stealing.
    So they wander around grocery stores, office parking, downtowns etc.. tag your car with a small gps and then come for it later.
    Those men did not look like teenagers.
    They did not just happen to follow that car… that was well orchestrated.

  15. Can we have a stronger police presence in this town?. Hire more police and have cars visible. And then we need to figure out how to get rid of the liberal judges who want to let these carjackers and other criminals go free. Elections do matter and we want a safe town. How do we make Westport undesirable to criminal activities?

  16. The most egregious part of this story (aside from the pontification about which political party is better)? The fact that everyone seeks to blame someone, and not one person asked about the victim’s health.

  17. Laura (Horelick) Lawhon

    This man pulled into his own garage and was accosted. Beware this can easily escalate to crimes we don’t care to imagine.

  18. Kudos Chief, well written story about those who work to “protect and serve” are faced with. Glad no one was hurt in this Westport story about conspicuous consumption.

  19. Kristan Hamlin writes:

    The information provided in the article about what CT law disallows in terms of police pursuits (as well as some of the above comments), appear to be both misinformed and an unfair effort to shift blame on the CT legislature.
    In an Aug. 2023 Connecticut Supreme Court decision, Borelli v. Renaldi, the court held as follows: “14-283 (d), the uniform statewide pursuit policy… require officers to exercise judgment in determining whether to pursue a fleeing motorist… defendant officers had a DISCRETIONARY, rather than a ministerial, duty under sec. 14-283 (d) to drive with DUE REGARD for the safety of all persons and property and, therefore, were entitled to immunity from liability for their decision to pursue vehicle: the phrase ‘‘due regard’’ in sec. 14-283 (d) imposes a general duty on officers to EXERCISE their JUDGMENT and DISCRETION in a REASONABLE manner, and, therefore, the duty to act with due regard is a discretionary one… [There is]… a discretionary, rather than a ministerial, duty to act; moreover, the uniform statewide pursuit policy set forth in secs. 14-283a-1 through 14-283a-4 of the state regulations reinforces the discretionary nature of the duty of officers in the context of police pursuits, as that policy requires officers to EVALUATE THE PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES presented and to WEIGH THE RISKS presented by pursuing a vehicle against the risks presented by not pursuing…”

    The law as just described by the CT Supreme Court allows police discretion, and a cost/benefit analysis of all the circumstances. Indeed, even the US Supreme Court has weighed in on unsafe police pursuits, in Brower v. County of lnyo and City of Canton v. Harris and imposed limits.

    Moreover, unreasonably dangerous police pursuits are a nationwide problem that the FBI and numerous studies have analyzed, and concluded that police pursuit policies like those in place in CT are recommended, given how often property damage, injury and death arise in unsafe high speed chases. See, DOJ, National Institute of Justice, [recommended] Restrictive Policies for High Speed Police Pursuits, at pp. 8-11.
    Given that innocent people and police sometimes die as a consequence of unsafe chases for property crimes, see, https://www.ntd.com/fleeing-suspect-kills-3-year-old-child_114139.html and also serious injury and property damage can ensue, see https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/cops_chased a policy that requires consideration of all circumstances, the crime at issue, surrounding conditions, immediate threat, makes sense. Policies that encourage consideration of surrounding conditions, and the nature of the criminal threat, are not the problem.
    Let’s be accurate about what the real problem is. Let’s not mislead that it is the law and/or regulations about high speed chases that are unreasonable

    • Bill Strittmatter

      Sounds to me like you and the chief are describing the same thing. The interesting question is whether the law as written and interpreted by the courts has an unintended consequence of causing law enforcement to be overly conservative in exercising judgement, or establishing pursuit policies, recognizing that what they do will be judged as reasonable will be based on 20/20 hindsight by someone not present at the time.

      The New Haven pursuit you cite is an interesting example. It’s worth noting they apparently have a different pursuit policy depending on the underlying crime, presumably based on some view of a difference in what would be judged reasonable to pursuing a speeder versus an armed murder suspect. Part of the cost/benefit requirement of the law, I suppose. And much like the chief describes.

      Beyond that, two armed robbers died in a crash while trying to escape capture in the middle of the night. No third parties were apparently involved or injured. Yet it was being “investigated for reasonableness”. I suppose it it possible a pedestrian might have been hurt if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unlikely at 1:30AM on a Monday morning but, sure. If that is the standard though, does seem like it would have a chilling effect on exercise of judgement.

      Perhaps that was the legislatures intent – instill caution. But let’s not kid ourselves that the law you has had an effect. And perhaps that’s good.

      By the way, you end with “Let’s be accurate what the real problem is.” I curious what you think the “real problem” is in this case.

      • I don’t think we are saying the same thing. The law does allow discretion, a cost/benefit analysis, risk/danger assessment and consideration of surrounding circumstances and conditions. So the statement, “But to not give officers the latitude to make that decision in the middle of the night, when there is very light traffic, for example, is frustrating” is misinformed.
        State laws related to safe police pursuits appears to be statistically unrelated to the increase in car thefts nationwide. So safe pursuit laws are not to blame, either.

        Car thefts went up across the US once the pandemic began. The rate increase in car thefts appears unrelated to whether one lives in a red, blue or purple state. TX and FL have seen some of the biggest increases.

        During the pandemic, car theft went up in the US because of principles of supply and demand. Pandemic-related supply shortages and price increases had an effect. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/18/with-car-prices-surging-yours-is-a-prime-target-for-thieves-.html
        However, car theft today is still not as high as it was in 2008.

        Also, the broad adoption of keyless ignitions ushered in a dark era for car thieves. People leave key fobs in their cars with greater frequency than car keys in an ignition.

        The higher pandemic prices for cars now has encouraged thieves to invest in amplifier devises that permit them to read a fob, even when it is in your house, if it is kept close to the door. Some car theft devices merely amplify the fob electronics, allowing crooks only to enter your car and steal what’s in it, but not drive it any distance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIveLwq0p5o

        Some devices can copy the electronic code, allowing the bandits to drive away.
        A simple measure like keeping your fob in a metal can is all it takes to block the signal, thereby preventing crooks from stealing the electronics.

      • Bill– I don’t think we are saying the same thing. The law does allow danger/risk analysis and consideration of surrounding circumstances, so it is inaccurate to have said, “but not to give officers the latitude to make that decision in the middle of the night, when there is very light traffic, for example, is frustrating.”
        There has been a nationwide increase in car thefts since the beginning of the pandemic for good ‘ole economic reasons: Pandemic-related hikes in car prices caused by supply shortages, etc.
        There is no causal connection in any state-by-state studies between ‘safe police pursuit laws’ and the increase in car thefts. Red, purple and blue states have also seen increases. Some of the biggest increases have been in states like TX, FL and CO.
        Key fob technology has contributed. People leave key fobs in cars with more frequency than they ever left keys in the ignition.
        Moreover, the higher prices offered post pandemic on the black market for stolen cars has caused crooks to invest in fob amplifier technology (which allows amplification of a nearby fob) in order to enter a car to steal items within. It however does not permit driving off in the car.
        However, there is also a fob electronic copier device that allows thieves to copy fob electronics in peoples homes, stored near the front door, etc. Simple preventative techniques like storing fobs in a metal can have the ability to block reading of the fob’s electronics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIveLwq0p5o

  20. My car was stolen from my driveway on Bayberry as I was unloading it 3 weeks ago in broad daylight. They still never found the car. They are getting more brazen and I have been told there has been a surge over the last few months . We need more patrol cars / police overall to properly be a deterrent in the northern areas.

  21. The real deterrents to crime are:
    1) Probability of being caught
    2) Surety of punishment

    Draconian sentencing does nothing to lower crime– so folks wanting more patrols and more criminals getting caught are on the right track. There also has to be commensurate, reasonable sentencing for these crimes. You can’t however, sentence your way out of crime…

    That having been said, the longer term solutions are to address economic inequality and economic opportunity in Connecticut. When kids at Central have a similar experience to kids at Staples, there will be similar outcomes.

    If you want to truly impact this problem, along with advocating for more police on patrol, support organizations that work with at-risk urban youth.

  22. If the juveniles cannot be prosecuted then their parents should be held responsible and arrested. Also the carjacking in someone’s garage(basically their house) is more of a home invasion than a car theft. If the victim would have used a weapon to protect himself and his family would he be in jail because the intruders were “juveniles”? This is absolutely outrageous and I can only imagine how frustrating this is for our very fine police officers.

  23. My unlocked Mazda was stolen out of my driveway in late July.

    It was a bunch of kids in another stolen car. Our police were following the 1st stolen car as it was reported stolen and yes, seconds behind the kids , they couldn’t follow on deserted streets at 3am.

    (Our police knocked on my door 10 minutes after and were terrific throughout.)

    Punks drive to Meriden, crashed it into a fence and were caught running away almost immediately.

    6 weeks later, tons of calls to garage and getting tough with insurance company ($14,000 in damages and towing on a 2016 car replaceable @ $18,000) i’m out $1100 and have a new mantra:

    I WILL ALWAYS yada yada yada
    , i

  24. We simply must stop giving these punks an incentive to return to Westport because that is what they’re doing right now. We all have to do better to take basic and simple precautions to protect our property. The police are probably growing weary of making this point as politely and often as they can. Greater police use of License Plate Readers (LPRs) should also be an effective tool to help combat the problem.

    With respect to the subject of pursuit, I thought the key determinant is the nature of the crime. My understanding is that if it’s a property crime (or other non-violent misdemeanor or felony), then there are massive constraints on what the police can do to pursue a vehicle that was either stolen or used in the robbery. They can turn their lights on and attempt to pull over the vehicle but if the suspects ignore them and keep on driving, the police cannot give chase. High speed chases can certainly be dangerous but if this interpretation is correct, it seems far too restrictive.

    The ugly car-jacking event yesterday is more than a property crime and therefore the Police can (and did) chase the offenders. The police then have to use their judgment as to the risks involved in the pursuit and they are best positioned to make those tough calls.

    We also have an adjudication problem with juveniles. It’s maddening that so many of these repeat offenders are released so quickly. I’m no expert but I think this is less a political issue (as many are quick to claim) and more of a resource issue – the courts are simply so backed up that property crimes aren’t viewed / taken seriously enough? At a bare minimum, you would think repeat juvenile offenders would be assigned community work of some kind… something to make them think twice about doing this stupid stuff over and over again.

  25. I won’t commit about the issue but I will say i have a solution to the problem for auto theft and carjacking. living in the capital of car theft and car jacking for over 20 years in Newark NJ I found the solution. But as an inventor I’ve found it difficult to get my point across to these car manufacturers no software needed

What do you think? Please comment!