Category Archives: Police

Police Service Dog Koda Retires

The Westport Police Department says:

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the early retirement of police service Dog Koda, due to health concerns.

The 9-year old Belgian Malinois was imported from Hungary. He joined the department in February 2012.

At 18 months old, Koda completed a 10-week training course. He earned certification in narcotics detection, tracking, handler protection and criminal apprehension.

Since beginning his law enforcement career, Koda was partnered up with Officer James Loomer, who joined the department in February of 2010. Since then, they worked together full time in the patrol division.

Koda, with Officer James Loomer.

Loomer and Koda have responded to over 600 canine-related calls for service, in Westport and neighboring communities.

The Police Department will raise funds to purchase and train a new police service dog, to continue Koda’s impressive legacy.

The public is invited to a brief ceremony this Friday (December 13, 9:30 a.m.) in the classroom at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road).

Westport Cops Go Green — Add Tesla To The Fleet

Savvy drivers know what our police cars look like.

They look like cop cars everywhere.

But this is Westport. The next time you’re pulled over, it may be by a … Tesla.

The newest addition to the Police Department fleet is a fully electric 2020 Tesla Model 3. The 310 mile-range electric vehicle has already been delivered. It’s being outfitted now with all the necessary equipment: emergency lights, siren, computer, weapon rack, and tires capable of speeds over 100 miles an hour.

It’s expected to hit the mean streets of Westport by the end of January.

No, this is not a speed trap by the Minute Man Monument. Although it might be.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas says he “believes in being green.” But his main reason for choosing a Tesla was superior performance, crash ratings, and collision avoidance technology.

Officers will pass on the autopilot feature.

While the purchase price of $52,290 is higher than the $37,000 the department normally spends adding another Ford Explorer, Koskinas expects to more than make up for that in fuel and maintenance savings.

Just in the first 3 years, an internal combustion engine squad car requires about $11,000 in oil changes, oil filters, tuneups and brakes.

Teslas require no annual maintenance. Brakes last 70,000 miles or more, thanks to a motor system that slows the car while simultaneously recharging the battery.

A new look for the Westport Police Department fleet.

Savings on gas are significant too. The Department of Energy’s fuel economy calculator shows the Police Department’s cost per mile will be $0.040. The fuel cost for a Ford Explorer is $0.127 per mile — saving $13,770 in the first 3 years.

Charging the battery is not an issue. The vehicle is expected to be used 200 to 220 miles a day. The police already have a gas pump on their property. They’ll add a Level 2 electric vehicle charger, which will take just a few hours overnight.

The cop car will join the 431 electric vehicles already owned by Westporters. 250 are Teslas. That puts us #1 in the state in both categories (per capita).

EV Club president Bruce Becker believes Westport is the first police department on the East Coast with a Tesla.

FUN FACTS:

  • The Model 3 has an extra trunk in the front of the vehicle where an internal combustion engine would usually be. Officers can use it to store emergency equipment that must be kept separate from cargo in the rear trunk.
  • Every Tesla comes straight from the factory with features like front, side and rear-view cameras that a police department would typically install at extra cost. They can also be used in “sentry mode” to monitor the vehicle and vicinity when it’s parked.
  • The Model 3 has a top speed of 162 mph — faster than all other vehicles in the current fleet.
  • Police cars spend lots of time idling. An internal combustion engine must run to power the lights and keep online computers running while not draining the battery. The Tesla will eliminate those tailpipe emissions.
  • This is not the first EV for Westport’s Police Department. In 2007, a Toyota Prius replaced a car that burned 7 to 9 gallons of gas every day. The current Prius is a plug-in hybrid, but operates almost exclusively in electric-only mode for its daily driving needs.

The Police plan an open house in the spring, for the public to see the new car up close.

Though you can see it in action starting next month, if — suspecting a Ford Explorer — you get pulled over by the Tesla instead.

Pics Of The Day #952

Over 100 Staples High School students spent 3 hours last night dodging the police.

It was hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the cops.

These dodgeball players are actually Players: Staples Players. Two days after closing “Mamma Mia,” they (and a graduated ringer) headed to the fieldhouse for the time of their lives.

The event was the annual “Dodge a Cop” dodgeball tournament. Organized by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group and the Westport Youth Commission, in collaboration with Westport’s Police Department — and held in the dodgeball-friendly fieldhouse — it raises scholarship funds for Chris Lemone’s children. The founder of TAG died 4 years ago, age 49.

Some teams were coed. This one was loaded with Staples athletes.

Nearly 2 dozen teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

When Dana Seymour is not a referee, she is a Staples security guard.

Despite an evening of hurling balls at each other, no arrests were reported.

Like athletes everywhere, there was some fidgeting during the national anthem …

… and then the games began. (Photos/Dan Woog)

2 Ways To Make A Difference

Westporters care.

We care about our friends and neighbors. We care about kids and older folks in need, here and in nearby towns and cities.

We want to help — particularly in this holiday season.

But we don’t always know how.

Here are a couple of great ideas.


The Westport Police Department Local Union #2080 and Police Benevolent Association host an annual Holiday Toy Drive. Thousands of donations benefit underprivileged children throughout Fairfield County, and beyond.

Westport police officers will accept new, unopened and unwrapped toys — and cash donations — in the ASF Sports parking lot (1560 Post Road East) on Saturdays and Sundays, December 7, 8, 14 and 15 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Collection boxes are set up now through December 15 at:

  • Westport Police Department, 50 Jesup Road (24 hours a day)
  • Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue (weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
  • ASF Sports, 1560 Post Road East (weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Questions? Email jruggiero@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-6017.


In recent years, Bridgeport’s Cesar Batalla School has become a favorite destination for Westporters hoping to help youngsters enjoy the holidays.

The school serves children in high poverty brackets. Some live in shelters. 100% are fed breakfast and lunch at school.

Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.

Westporters can provide some of those gifts, for children in pre-K through 3rd grade.

It’s easy: Click here to order online from Amazon. Orders from the Wish List will be shipped directly to the school. They are also accepting donations at the Family Resource Center in the school (606 Howard Avenue, Bridgeport).  Call 203-579-8526 for drop-off times. For more information, email blabrador@bridgeportedu.net.

If interested, act now! Gifts will be given by Santa on December 19.

In past years, Westporters donated these gifts to the Cesar Batalla School.

 

To Catch A Thief

Earlier today, I posted a story about an epidemic in town: Citizens stealing signs advertising non-profit events.

I used a generic photo. Obviously, I did not have a handy image of someone caught in the act.

Now I do. Even better: It’s a video.

A Westport resident captured this scene, from a dashcam.

The view is from Church Street South, near the Post Road intersection.

The sign advertises — er, advertised — Bedford Theater Company’s production this weekend of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

It’s in 2 separate videos, because the dashcam records in 3-minute increments.

In the first, we see a man who has parked his silver SUV in the lot of the now-closed Mobil Self-Serve (right). He walks from right to left, toward the sign:

In the second, longer clip, he lifts up the sign and brings it back to his vehicle, on the right.

It’s easy to say, “No big deal. It’s only a sign.”

But when you see a neighbor of ours behaving like this — a grown man removing a sign for a middle school play — you have to wonder what kind of town we’re living in.

Signing Off On Thefts

The election is over, but thefts of yard signs continue. Now, the victims are non-profit organizations. The Westport Police Department just issued this press release:

Numerous claims of missing lawn signs have been reported over the pastfew weeks by local nonprofits. Some of these signs were displayed on private property or were authorized to be placed on public property.

A group calling itself “The Committee” has written to at least one local nonprofitorganization stating that if they fail to remove lawn signs, “The Committee” will take down their signs “at first sight.”

The individual or individuals behind “The Committee” have not identified themselves. However, this incident has been reported to police and is underinvestigation.

Residents are advised against taking it upon themselves to remove signs that do not belong to them, from either public or private property. Enforcement of town rules is the responsibility of the town of Westport, not private citizens.

The removal of signs from public or private property by someone not authorized to do so by the town, or by the owner of the sign,may constitute theft. Entering onto private property to remove signs may constitute trespassing.

Both of these acts can result in arrest.

Anyone with information about the recent rash of missing signs is asked to call the Westport Police Department: 203-341-6000.  Charities that have had signs removed from authorized public or private locations are also encouraged to file a formal police report.

Nonprofits are reminded that signs advertising charitable events must be reviewed and approved by the town before the signs can be placed on town property or in the town right-of-way.

An electronic copy of the Temporary Sign Request form is available on the town’s website. Paper copies of this document can also be obtained from the First Selectman’s office.

For each event, a total of 15 signs are allowed on town property and in the town right-of-way. These signs cannot be placed more than 2 weeks before the event, and they must be removed within 2 days after the event.

Town Sends Out A Trick-Or-Treat Message

A press release from Westport’s police, fire and selectman’s office says:

Members of the town’s emergency management team and the first selectman have discussed the weather forecast for Halloween, and the effect it may have on trick-or-treating in Westport. The team also discussed requests the town has received to consider changing trick-or-treating night to Friday or Saturday, and the logistics involved in making such a change.

Because trick-or-treating is not a town-sponsored event, the team agreed that it is best to leave the decision up to families and individual neighborhoods to change the night within their own neighborhood.

According to the National Weather Service, current models show a chance for a brief window of drying between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Halloween. Heavy rains and wind will occur after 9 p.m.

In all circumstances, the emergency management team recommends close supervision of all trick-or-treaters. Door-to-door trick-or-treating close to home in familiar areas is advisable.

The Police Department offers the following safety tips for trick-or-treating:

  • Motorists are urged to drive with extreme care and allow extra time to reach destinations, as trick-or-treaters will surely be out on Thursday evening, October 31. Please use the utmost caution when exiting driveways. Please don’t drink and drive.
  • Parents or other responsible adults should accompany all elementary school-age children. Younger children should complete their rounds by 6 p.m., older ones by 8 p.m. Agree on a specific time when older youths are due home, and plan a route with them in advance.
  • Costumes should be easily visible and marked with reflector tape, and/or flashlights should be carried at all times. When choosing a costume, stay away from long trailing fabric that could create a fall hazard. Opt for face paint instead of a mask. If your child wears a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so they can see out.
  • Travel in small groups to increase safety.  Encourage children to stay in their own neighborhoods where they are known.
  • Children should only go to the houses where outside lights are on. A darkened house is not prepared to receive them. The police department receives complaints annually regarding doorbells being rung, even though the lights are out.

Trick or treat!

 

Animal Control Officer: Far More Than “Dog Warden”

Back in the day, Westport had a dog warden. His job was simple: respond to complaints about roaming or barking dogs.

Today, the position is “animal control officer.” Dogs are among the duties — and, with added regulations about Compo Beach and Winslow Park, there’s more to do.

But in 2019, Westport’s animal control officer also handles — sometimes literally — cats. Plus raccoons, coyotes, foxes, swans, hawks, owls, and of course deer. Along with every other bit of wildlife that believes it has as much right as you or I to live here.

Which of course they do.

On September 1, Westport welcomed a new animal control officer. Joseph Saponare replaced Gina Gambino.

But he’s hardly “new.” Saponare spent the last 18 years as assistant animal control officer, working with and under the legendary Peter D’Amico and Art Reale.

Joseph Saponare

Nor is Saponare new to Westport. He’s as native as you get: Born on Cross Street, raised in a house his sister still lives in, and a graduate of Assumption School, Bedford Junior High and a 1965 graduate of Staples High School (with a year of home schooling, after contracting rheumatic fever).

Growing up, Saponare’s passion was not animals. It was his hot ’61 Chevy with a 348 engine. When he wasn’t racing at Dover Drag Strip, he hung out at the Crest Drive-In (at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square).

After Staples, Saponare worked at Pepperidge Farm, then spent 10 years as a Norwalk typesetter. He had a snowplow business, bartended, was a volunteer firefighter (and president of the Vigilant Hose Company on Wilton Road), and served as president, vice president and treasurer of Sons of Italy, when that Saugatuck group put on the beloved Festival Italiano.

He also became a travel agent. Saponare Travel opened in 1983 on Church Lane, then moved to Post Road West.

After 9/11 — when travel dropped dramatically — Saponare joined the Travel Exchange in Sconset Square. He’s spent the past 15 years too as a traffic agent, working at places like Staples and Bedford.

Most important for Saponare’s new post is his 18 years as an assistant animal control officer. He loves the satisfaction of bringing injured animals to Weston’s Wildlife in Crisis, and helping those in distress.

Joe Saponare, with Quinn.

Deer have become a big part of his work. Saponare rescued a fawn that had fallen into a swimming pool. When he brought it to the woods, the mother lurked nearby.

The officer had been careful to don gloves. If the mother smelled his scent on the baby, she would abandon it.

Another time, he was called to Willowbrook Cemetery. Workers worried that a fawn would fall into a freshly dug grave. Saponare carried it to a safe place, while its mother watched intently.

A couple of hours before we spoke, Saponare was called to rescue a deer caught in a fence. Police officers and firefighters helped release it. But its leg was broken, and it had to be put down.

There was another call that morning. A dog was struck on the Sherwood Island Connector. A Good Samaritan tried to help — and was bitten.

I asked the new animal control officer if he has a message for Westporters. He’s no longer a “dog warden” — but the topic was canines.

“Be responsible,” Saponare says.

“Don’t leave your dog unattended in hot weather. And be sure to license your dog. That’s the law. It’s the only way we can tell if your dog has been vaccinated.”

Westport: The Write Place

The statistics are in: 18 iconic Westport locations. Six library spots. Six pick-your-own-spots. All told, 250 “writes” during last month’s Write Here project.

Jan Bassin

Led by Jan Bassin — Senior Center coordinator of writing programs, and the Westport Library’s Maker-in-Residence — each hour-long session began with a brief introduction. After a prompt, Westporters of all ages, abilities and backgrounds began writing. At the end, volunteers shared their creations.

The proudest — or bravest — uploaded their writing to a dedicated website.

But those dry facts don’t come close to telling the whole “story.”

Like many participants, Bassin knew some of the writing locations well. In her case it was the Senior Center, Westport Country Playhouse, Compo Beach, Wakeman Town Farm, Levitt Pavilion and Farmers’ Market.

Others she hadn’t visited or thought about in years: Earthplace, Rolnick Observatory, Westport Historical Society.

She’d been to Toquet Hall only once; the Westport Weston Family YMCA and Ned Dimes Marina never. She had no idea where to find the police station entrance.

Writing at Earthplace …

Jan was excited to “discover” those new places. But just as intriguing was the chance to look at familiar places with new eyes: the Town Hall lobby, for example, and train station.

She realized too that classrooms at fire and police headquarters, picnic tables at Longshore and chairs under a tree at the Farmers’ Market were as exciting as the more “sparkly” venues.

Each site brought new revelations. Jan and her group sat spellbound as Nick Marsan described his circuitous, unexpected route to becoming a firefighter; Sue Pfister spoke of shifting her focus from business to social work, then finding a population where she could help; Lori Cochran-Dougall shared her passion for sustainability; Carleigh Welsh offered her heartfelt philosophy about the importance of the arts, and Shannon Calvert showed photos of the universe taken at the observatory.

… the Westport Country Playhouse …

Each visit, Jan says, “felt like a private and special writing party.” Everyone at every site treated the writers as special guests.

At the end of each talk, she guided the group into “feeling” the place they were in. The writing that followed was “amazing.”

It was “beautiful, connected and gorgeous” — even from people who insisted, “I don’t write.”

When she designed the month, Jan did not expect to be as moved as she was, every single day. “People’s voices and stories still play in my head,” she says with awe.

… and the Westport Farmers’ Market.

The project was as much about “place” as about words. “We can’t actually think of ourselves at any point in our lives without remembering where we were,” she notes.

“By writing together in a series of places in our town, we ask: What makes a community?”

The answer, it turns out, is write right here.

(Click here to read the writing posted to the Write Here website.)

Police Step Up Bike Traffic Enforcement. Resident Sees A Larger Issue.

It’s not quite Times Square. But certain parts of Westport — Hillspoint Road and South Compo from Elvira Mae’s to the Minute Man, say — attract a wide variety of folks.

Walkers, joggers, people with strollers and/or dogs, bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers — all enjoy the beautiful, relaxing scenery.

And all battle for limited territory: roads, shoulders, sidewalks.

Beautiful — and not much room.

On Friday, the Westport Police Department — acting on “a number of complaints related to cyclists using town roads recklessly, with little to no regard for posted traffic control signage and other rules of the road” — announced a bicycle traffic enforcement campaign.

Officers — concentrated in and around Compo Beach — will be on the lookout for cyclists who blow through stop signs, fail to ride single file in the direction of traffic, or don’t use hand signals.

The scene yesterday, at Soundview Avenue by Hillspoint Road.

The stepped-up enforcement is not anti-biker, the department says. Rather, it’s to “educate and ensure the safety of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike while all must share our roads.”

A Compo Beach resident applauded the campaign. He’s tired of trying to enjoy the beauty of the area, only to have “a 10-person bike torpedo zoom through at twice the speed limit, not stopping at signs and crosswalks.”

Not Westport. But to some people, it feels like this.

However, he adds, cyclists should not bear all the blame.

“The bigger and sadder issue is the underlying anger and hate. Bikers are afraid of cars. Walkers are afraid of bikers. And on it goes,” he says.

“Everyone comes from fear and anger, rather than the gratefulness of walking or riding near our spectacular beach. In the short term, the town will address the danger that exists. But in the longer term, how do we as a society address the fear and anger that this issue is simply a symptom of?”

After being on the receiving end of rudeness from cyclists — and scared by them — he says he tried to put himself in their shoes.

He realized how much they fear biking next to an SUV driver preoccupied with his or her cellphone (which the Police Department also addresses).

His own sons love to ride. “I can’t default to the easy ‘bikers are wrong,'” the Compo area resident says. “So I see this as, short term, let’s enforce the road rules to make people safe.

“Longer term, let’s figure out how we can become more tolerant and accepting of others. Let’s be more grateful, and less grumpy.”