Category Archives: Police

Roundup: Texting; Triking; More


Each week, the Westport Police Department writes tickets for driving while using cell phones.

It’s against the law. Distracted driving can cost you from $150 to $1,000.

To help you avoid those fines, the WPD has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administraiton’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” effort. Throughout August, the campaign will help enforcement efforts to catch distracted, texting drivers.

The WPD says: Pull off the road safely to text. Or let your passenger text. And don’t forget to activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature. Or just put your phone in your trunk, glove box or back seat!


The pandemic can’t keep David Bibbey down. Or in the studio.

The Westport Library media studio producer brought his Van Raam trike to down, and rode around. Guided by Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell, he set out to discover how the town is reopening.

Click here for interviews with 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker, Westport Downtown Merchants Association head Randy Herbertson, artists Miggs and Trace Burroughs, and folks at Savannah Bee Company, Fleet Feet, Walrus Alley and New England Hemp Farm.

David Bibbey


And finally … Hurricane Hanna hit the southern Gulf Coast this weekend. The area was already reeling from the coronavirus. Here’s to all our friends in that big, wonderful state.

 

Pics Of The Day #1186

Westport Police Headquarters has been yarn bombed …

… and graced with encouraging stone messages, courtesy of the “Westport Rocks” project.

(Photos/Amy Berkin)

Police: Property Crimes On The Rise

The Westport Police Department says;

As the COVID-19 quarantines and associated restrictions have gradually eased in Connecticut, you may have noticed an increase in daily vehicular traffic throughout Fairfield County.

Unfortunately, traffic is not all that seems to be on the rise. What has been the most striking to the Westport Police Department is a marked increase in property crimes.

Comparing an approximately 40-day period from late May to early July in 2019 and 2020, statistics indicate an upward trend.

Within this period in 2019, the department investigated 3 stolen motor vehicle complaints. In 2020 we have investigated a total of 10 within the same time period, while an 11th stolen vehicle from another jurisdiction was recovered here.

In every case, the stolen vehicle was left unlocked with keys inside overnight. Some of these vehicles were recovered in other jurisdictions, but many remain unaccounted for.

Almost always closely tied to motor vehicle thefts are burglaries of parked and unoccupied vehicles in driveways.

In the specified time frame in 2019, the department handled 5 incidents of motor vehicles being entered/burglarized. In 2020 we handled 11 of these types of incidents in that same time frame.

In all recent cases, the vehicles were left unlocked. In multiple cases, wallets containing credit cards were stolen and subsequently used to make  purchases.  The actual numbers of these types of incidents are assumed to be higher than as reported, as many residents do not notify police in situations where vehicles were entered but nothing of any significant value appears to have been taken.

In this sample period in 2019, the department investigated 3 burglary complaints (2 commercial, 1 residentail).  In this same stretch of time in 2020 we have investigated 6 residential burglaries, 4 of which included forced entry.  The most brazen was perpetrated in the overnight hours while the home was occupied and the residents asleep. Entry was gained through an unlocked door.

Footage from a Nest camera last weekend shows a burglar casing out an an Old Hill area home.

In 2019, the department responded to 1 shoplifting incident within this timeframe. In the same period in 2020, we have responded to 8 such complaints.

Please let this data serve as a stark reminder that property crimes and theft seem to be trending upward in Westport.  Again, this is a small sample in time of slightly more than a month, but it merits careful attention.

Measures are being taken by the department to stop or slow this trend.  Preventative measures such as locking doors, arming alarms and securing valuables, coupled with the vigilance of our officers, is the key to safeguarding our neighborhoods.

If you observe suspicious activity in your neighborhood, please don’t delay in contacting us. Maintaining public safety and security is only possible through a continued partnership with the residents we proudly serve.

No one knows your neighborhood better than you do. The information and feedback provided by our community is vital to our crime prevention efforts and overall effectiveness as a law enforcement agency.

Brazen Break-In Puts Homeowners On Alert

The homeowners were away for the weekend.At 12:30 p.m. last Sunday — in broad daylight, and in view of the road — a security camera caught a man walking up to their Old Hill neighborhood house.

For half an hour, he casually cased out the place. He walked around the property and climbed on the roof, checking for unlocked windows. He banged on the side of the house, making sure no one was home.

Footage from a Nest camera shows the burglar — casually carrying a Gatorade bottle — casing out an Old Hill neighborhood home.

He finally found a vulnerable basement window, underneath the deck. He removed the glass — avoiding setting off the alarm — and entered the home. Then he used the owner’s own tools to cut the alarm wire.

That set off the alarm, and the burglar ran away.

The intruder removed the glass window, then used the owner’s own tools to cut the security alarm line.

“This guy was brazen, unconcerned about being seen or caught, experienced,” the homeowner says. “He knew where the main line of the security system was, and went right to it.”

Police found a Gatorade bottle he had left behind, and got a DNA sample. He did not wear gloves, so they obtained fingerprints and boot prints from the basement too. However, odds are against him getting caught.

The homeowner shows the cut security alarm line.

This is not the first time this has happened in Old Hill. A neighbor’s home was broken into in mid-March.

Residents have noticed men walking around the area recently. They did not give it a second thought; they figured they were handymen, landscapers or other workers. They’ll be more vigilant now, watching their own property and others’.

Since they learned of the break-in, neighbors have posted Nest photos of men casing other houses.

Another intruder, at another Old Hill area home.

The owners are adding extra features to their system, and more cameras. They’re filling in the basement window, and alarming all their glass.

“He would have set off the motion detector if he tried to get upstairs,” the owner says. “But it’s still really creepy.”

Besides heightened awareness by all, there’s only one good thing to come of this incident: At least one intruder was masked.

“Golden State Killer” Pleads Guilty; 1 Victim Was Westporter

Yesterday in Sacramento, Joseph James DeAngelo admitted he was the “Golden State Killer.”

The former police officer pleaded guilty to 4 murders and 2 rapes. They’re the first of an expected confessions of 13 murders and nearly 50 rapes, committed across California between 1975 and ’88.

Among the victims he confessed to yesterday: 1962 Staples High School graduate Debra Manning.

Debra Manning

At the hearing, a Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney described how in 1979 DeAngelo broke into a Goleta home shared by Manning and her boyfriend, osteopathic surgeon Dr. Robert Offerman. She recounted in grim detail the crimes that ensued.

Manning’s murder was included in Michelle McNamara’s 2018 best-seller “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer.” A 6-part HBO series based on the book premiered on Sunday.

DeAngelo faces 11 consecutive life sentences for the killings, and 15 concurrent ones for kidnapping.

Roundup: Beach, Pool, Golf And Tennis News; #ILoveWestport; Lucky Grad; Fireworks; More


Here’s the latest update from Westport Parks & Rec:

Starting Wednesday, July 1, lifeguards will staff Compo and Burying Hill beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All regular beach rules will be enforced, in addition to all COVID-19 rules. Boogie boards and skim boards are permitted.

The Longshore pools will remain closed, due to state restrictions and limited staffing resources.

Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava says her department “will continue to monitor the guidance from the state, Should restrictions ease, and we can staff appropriately, we will reevaluate the possibility of opening the pool complex.”

Starting tomorrow (Saturday, June 27), 2 players may share a golf cart. Both must wear face coverings in the cart, and the same person must drive the cart the entire time. Exception: members of the same household are not required to wear face covering in a cart, and valid drivers may alternate.

Also starting tomorrow, all tennis courts at Longshore, Staples High School, Town Farm and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck School) are open for both singles and doubles play. All platform tennis and pickleball courts are open for singles and doubles too.


During the lockdown, town officials emphasized: “We’re all in this together.”

That’s the message during reopening too. To drive it home, they asked a variety of people to make personal promises for keeping everyone healthy.

Anthony John Rinaldi taped those promises. He’s making them into a series of videos, all tagged #ILoveWestport.

In the first one, restaurant owner Bill Taibe promises to keep cooking. Farmers’ Market director Lori McDougall promises to support local vendors. Police Chief Foti Koskinas promises to keep Westporters safe.

There are more too, in this quick video — including a special “06880” appearance. Click below to see.


Like many Westporters, Serkan Elden kept his “Proud Family of 2020 Staples High School Graduate” sign up, even after the ceremony 2 weeks ago. He is justifiably proud of his daughter Deniz, a great member of the senior class that went through so much this year.

Someone else is proud too.

The other day Deniz found an envelope in the Eldens’ mailbox. It was addressed simply: “The Graduate.”

Inside she found a note: “Congratulations 2020! Hope this is a Winner! Good Luck. From, Anonymous Lyons Plain Rd. Neighbor.”

Attached was a Double Match lottery scratch card.

She did not win. 😦 But odds are good that this is a gift Deniz will remember long after the coronavirus is history.


If you missed last weekend’s “Stand Up (At Home) for Homes with Hope” comedy show — no problem.

An encore presentation is set for Wednesday (July 1, 8 p.m.). Four very funny comedians joined Staples grad/noted songwriter Justin Paul for a wonderful hour of entertainment.

Click here to register. And if you saw the show the first time around, you’ll receive an automatic link to watch again.


 

There are no 4th of July fireworks at Compo Beach this year.

And, the Westport Fire Department warns, there should be none anywhere in town.

The note that all fireworks are illegal in Connecticut, expect sparklers and fountains.

Also illegal: items like party poppers, snakes, smoke devices, sky lanterns and anything that emits a flame. Possessing or exploding illegal devices could result in a fine or jail.

Note too: Extremely dry conditions make it easy for fireworks, sparklers and fountains to cause brush fires.


And finally … as other states find themselves in the same situation Connecticut was in 2 months ago, we here are thinking of our friends around the nation.

Persona Interview: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

What 4 Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was “horrifying and embarrasing.”

97% of what the Westport police do is “serve.” Only about 3% is “protect.”

And even though he is white, when Foti Koskinas came to the US as a 7th grader from Greece — speaking not a word of English — he felt like a minority.

He made those remarks yesterday, in an interview with Rob Simmelkjaer. They’re significant because Koskinas is now Westport’s chief of police.

The wide-ranging interview includes topics like why, at a Jesup Green rally, Koskinas apologized to Floyd’s family (he felt the Minnesota police had dishonored the uniform and badge Koskinas is so proud of), and current calls to de-fund police departments (he talks about the effects of government cuts to mental health services, which force the police to now do more than ever).

The interview was done in partnership with Westport Lifestylemagazine, which will post excerpts from this and other interviews with Westporters about recent protests.

The interview is available on the Persona app — and on YouTube. Click below for the full discussion.

Roundup: Staples Art Show; BMW Security; More


Staples High School is out for the summer. But the astonishing artwork produced by students — before it was closed by COVID-19, and afterward during distance learning — lives on.

The art department’s website includes a gallery, a “virtual art show,” and news. It’s filled with art of all kinds: watercolor, charcoal, pen-and-ink, photography, jewelry, prints, murals, masks, pottery, graphic design and more. Click here for the link.

It’s well worth visiting. Just make sure you have plenty of time. There’s lots to enjoy, and be proud of.

The entrance to the “Virtual Art Show.”


On Friday, attendees at Staples’ drive-through graduation ceremony got their first glimpse of the high school’s new security vehicle.

It looks like a shiny new electric BMW.

But looks are not always what they seem. In fact, it’s used — a 2015 model. And Westport did not spend a penny on it.

The vehicle was donated by a citizen to the Westport Police Department, which in turn gifted it to the town. The value — according to Board of Selectmen minutes — is between $5,000 and $20,000.

Just remember that donation, the next time someone makes some comment about Westport’s school security officers riding around in BMWs, (Hat tip: Dr. Edward Paul)


And finally … It’s been nearly 3 weeks since George Floyd was killed, and 3 months since the coronavirus upended America. Bob Dylan is (once again) right.

Pics Of The Day #1145

It was quite a day in Westport. It ended like this …

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

… following an afternoon like this:

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

(Photo/JC Martin)

Police Chief Foti Koskinas …

… and a very different view (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Peaceful Protesters Throng Westport

One of Westport’s largest political protests since the Vietnam War drew a crowd of about 1,500 to downtown Westport this afternoon.

Organized by young people — and overwhelmingly young, but with families and at least one 80-year-old woman — the event was loud, enthusiastic, and peaceful.

A number of attendees were from Westport. Others came from surrounding towns and cities, including Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Many carried homemade signs.

Ten days after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the crowd chanted “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.”

Floyd’s death — and similar actions around the country — was the catalyst. But placards invoked other black people killed in the country, and an array of injustices.

(Photo/Jennifer Meerow Berkiner)

Bobbi Brown — the youngest member of Bridgeport’s Board of Education — set the tone as the event began, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. The symbolism was apt: That’s the site of some of the most memorable political protests in Westport. And this afternoon’s demonstration was, in part, a bridge between a wealthy white suburb, and its more socioeconomically and demographically diverse neighbors.

Brown spoke passionately about the need for involvement, education and activism. She was joined by several other young black leaders.

But she also handed the megaphone to a variety of speakers. A young autistic white man spoke of his marginalization. A young white woman in a wheelchair cried as she talked about supporting her black friend.

Westporter Mary-Lou Weisman said, “I’m in my 80s. My generation failed you. We have hope you can do what we didn’t do.”

Mary-Lou Weisman

Holding the hand of a 7-year-old white girl, Brown noted, “It’s up to us to make the world better and safer for her, and everyone.”

The crowd — growing bigger by the minute — then marched the short distance from the bridge to police headquarters.

Chief Foti Koskinas told the crowd, “You are making sense. You are making a difference. We are listening.”

More speakers took the megaphone by the station house. Everyone took a knee.

A half-white, half-Filipino college student said, “We were born into an enormous amount of privilege. We can walk around freely. But Westport cannot ignore injustice. We need to use our privilege to do better.”

The group then massed back on the bridge. The speakers, chants, pleas for justice and promises to act continued.

“Are you fired up?” one speaker asked the crowd.

“Yes!” they roared back. “Fired up!”

Police Chief Foti Koskinas promised to keep this in police headquarters.

State Senator Will Haskell was in the crowd, handing out masks.

(Photo/Sophie Mulhern)

(All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)