Category Archives: Police

Motorcycle Cops On A Mission

How are you spending your weekend?

While you (and I) enjoy the beach, barbecues and other perks of a rapidly ending summer, 3 Westport police officers have taken a road trip.

Officers Rachel Baron, Mark Grasso and Scott Thompson used personal time to join volunteers from police departments nationwide, as escorts in a charity motorcycle ride.

America’s 911 Foundation — an all-volunteer group — organizes the annual event. Honoring victims of, and first responders to, the September 11 terrorist attacks, the ride visits all 3 sites at which people lost their lives that day in 2001.

It started Thursday in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; headed to the Pentagon, and ends today at the World Trade Center.

The 9/11 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania …

As escorts, the Westport officers helped clear the road ahead, stopped traffic at on-ramps and intersections, and made sure the many motorcyclists felt safe and supported.

… and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Money raised goes to great causes. Last year, the foundation presented $32,000 in college scholarships to 16 first responder children; provided over $7,000 to California first responders working on wildfires, and donated funds to fire companies in Tennessee and Pennsylvania for better equipment.

Sewage Leak: What Happened; What Happens Next

This press release was just issued by the Westport Fire Department:

At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, the Westport Fire Department Marine Unit was preparing for training on the river. Fire department personnel were notified by a person in the area of a reported sewage leak in the Saugatuck River. This leak was in the area of the I-95 overpass.

Engine 4 responded and found what appeared to be sewage flowing up from under the river to the surface. The Public Works Department was immediately notified, and a representative responded. This set into motion other activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the spill and erring on the side of caution.

As is standard practice, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was notified. Also notified was the U.S. Coast Guard.

Additional fire department personnel responded to the scene. A joint effort was made between the Westport Fire, Police, Sewer Department, Health Department, Conservation, Selectman’s Office as well as the State Health Department and DEEP to determine a plan of action.

The Sewer Department immediately ensured that the pumps were shut down, and called in multiple vacuum trucks to manually haul the sewage across the river to the treatment plant. Under consultation with the Health Department and Selectman’s Office, it was decided that the beaches would be closed for swimming.

A public advisory was broadcast via the town’s emergency notification system, and the state was advised of the precautions that Westport was taking. The State agreed with the proactive efforts and followed suit. Westport Police and Westport Parks and Recreation notified swimmers to exit the water and remain onshore. Westport Police also made the proper notifications to ensure that no shell fishing occurred. Sherwood Island was closed to swimmers by DEEP personnel.

As of approximately 6:30 p.m. there was still a controlled leak, with additional pumping vehicles on their way. It was determined that town and Sherwood Island beaches would remain closed for swimming until testing verifies the water is safe to swim in. The Health Department advised that testing will generally be performed approximately 24 hours after the spill. Testing is currently scheduled for Monday. Aquarion Water was contacted and they advised town officials that there was no cause for concern regarding contamination of the public wells.

Westport officials identified the need to replace the aging pipe, and took measures to address the issue before it became a problem. First Selectman James Marpe said, “We identified the need to replace the current sewer pipe 3 years ago and were very close to completion. My thanks go out to the town and state departments in their prompt and appropriate response to the incident.”

A new pipe has already been run under the riverbed and pumps were in the process of being installed to handle the increased capacity. According to the Public Works director, the new pipe was scheduled to be put into service within the next 2 weeks. This process will be expedited in light of today’s events. The Sewer Department will continue to work with DEEP as well as state and local health departments to ensure that the safety and health of residents and guests remain paramount.

Photo Challenge #239

I thought last week’s Photo Challenge might have needed some detective work.

Lee Scharfstein’s image showed the outline of a bullet. Inside were the words “Bullet proof.”

It’s in the police station lobby. If you’ve ever bought a PAL fireworks ticket there, or gone for (ahem) some other reason, you might have seen it. It’s at the bottom of the heavy glass reception window, in the lobby.

Bobbie Herman, Diane Silfen, Rich Stein, Sharon Paulsen, Jonathan McClure, Andrew Colabella and Brooks Sumberg all knew exactly where that window is. Congratulations — may the force be with you!

The glass is bullet-proof for a reason.

On the morning of July 4, 1961 Brendan McLaughlin — a former Marine working as a New York advertising executive — shot and killed his father during a family argument.

The murder took place in the McLaughlins’ old Victorian house on Gorham Island (the site today of that 40,000-square foot office building).

McLaughlin fled. An hour before dawn he burst into the police station on Jesup Road. He pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired at 2 policemen behind the front desk, wounding Donald Bennette.

Officers chased him into the parking lot, where he shot officer Andrew Chapo. A shootout ensued; McLaughlin was wounded.

Chapo and Bennette recovered. McLaughlin died several weeks later.

The police station lobby was renovated in 1988. Mindful of the July 4th tragedy, greater security measures were installed.

Here’s this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d find this warning sign, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

ICE Raids: Police Chief Explains Westport’s Stance

On Thursday — a few days before ICE may begin arresting members of undocumented families, including nearby immigrants who are not targets of raids — the Westport Police Department issued a press release.

The department noted its strict adherence to the Connecticut Trust Act, which defines the circumstances and duration under which a prisoner in the custody of state or local police or corrections can be held.

The WPD added that it “recognizes and truly values the diversity of the community we serve, and seeks to foster an environment of trust…. This agency will always treat all with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”

Today, Police Chief Foti Koskinas — a first-generation immigrant from Greece — expanded on his department’s statement.

He is concerned that the lessons of history have not been learned. In another era, he says, police departments used fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators. Those experiences — and the images of them — stigmatized law enforcement. That distrust has lingered, in some cases for decades.

“Law enforcement should be the last to intervene in social and political issues — if ever,” Koskinas says.

“The primary role of law enforcement is to serve. Very infrequently, our role is to protect, and help create an environment where all members of our community can thrive. But when we do need to protect people, they must be able to trust us.”

The population recently targeted by ICE is “people we welcome into our community,” Koskinas says. “We employ them. They are our neighbors. We hold up the ideal that Westport, our state and country are places where they can contribute and enrich their lives, their families’ lives, and all of our lives. If they work hard and give their families better lives than where they came from, they can succeed.”

However, he continues, “others wearing badges then turn around and wipe that away with threats and raids. We separate families, detain and deport them. We are better than this. We have to find better ways of dealing with this situation.”

Koskinas is hardly soft on crime. Criminals will be treated as criminals, no matter what their immigration status, he notes. Anyone who puts Westport at risk — who victimizes residents and visitors — will face consequences.

However, he notes, being in this country undocumented is not a criminal offense. It’s a violation of immigration (civil) law — not criminal law.

That’s why local police departments don’t ask about immigration status, or arrest undocumented people.

To serve and protect everyone in town — residents, employees, visitors and anyone passing through — the police must have their trust. They gain it by treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Not, Koskinas emphasizes, by turning them over to ICE for family separation and deportation.

Westport Police Address Immigration Raid Fears

The Westport Police Department just issued this statement:

The Westport Police Department has recently received inquiries from members of our community concerning our policies on federal immigration enforcement, specifically the level of this department’s participation in these activities.

Chief Foti Koskinas would like to reassure the community that as a first generation immigrant himself, he is sensitive to and shares the concerns of the community at large as it relates to this matter.

The Westport Police Department is in no way affiliated with or actively participating in federal efforts at immigration enforcement.

This department strictly adheres to and trains its officers on the Connecticut Trust Act, which clearly defines the circumstances and duration under which a prisoner in the custody of state or local police or corrections can be held solely on the basis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request.

Initially enacted into law on January 1, 2014, it is also noteworthy to mention that legislation was also recently passed updating this act, further limiting these conditions. Click here for a link to the original legislation.

The Westport Police Department recognizes and truly values the diversity of the community we serve, and seeks to foster an environment of trust in which victims of crime actively seek our assistance regardless of immigration status. As has been set forth as a guiding principle in our mission statement, this agency will always treat all with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Signs: The Lawful Sequel

Earlier today, I posted Amy Ancel’s story about the theft of legal signs for non-profit events. Here’s a re-post from 2017, courtesy of the Westport Police Department:

Unfortunately we have experienced vandalism and theft regarding temporary signs in the past. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. These crimes may lead to criminal charges such as trespassing, criminal mischief and/or larceny.

The following policy has been established by town officials, in order to provide coordination for the placement of temporary signs by Westport non-profit organizations wishing to advertise one-time-only charitable events.  Signs placed on public property advertising a private business or company will be removed. (Bold italics are mine!)

The sign in the foreground is illegal. (Photo/John Karrel)

General Guidelines for ALL Temporary Signs

  • Town property includes traffic islands and road rights of way.
  • The town may not approve, nor is it responsible for, any signs erected on State of Connecticut property. It is not advisable to place signs on State of Connecticut property (including rights of way and islands along Routes 1, 136, 57, 33, and the Sherwood Island Connector, nor on the exit or entrance ramps of I-95 or the Merritt Parkway), as the state may remove them.
  • No sign may be placed on any school property without the prior permission of the superintendent’s office.
  • No sign may be placed within the interior of Compo Beach or Longshore.
  • No sign may be placed on Town Hall property.
  • No sign may be placed on trees or utility poles.
  • No sign may interfere with traffic visibility.
  • Signs on private property require property owner approval. Signs on private property shall not extend beyond the property line or into the town right-of-way and is suggested they be removed within 2 days after the publicized event or election.

There are rules for advertising charitable events.

Temporary Signs for Advertising Charitable Events

The placement and locations of temporary signs on Town property for the purpose of advertising a charitable event requires review and approval by the Westport police chief, director of Planning and Zoning, and director of Parks & Recreation, or their designated representatives. Qualifying organizations (i.e. local non-profits) may send the attached request, including proposed locations, for the placement of temporary signs to: Selectman’s Office, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 or selectman@westportct.gov.

The following conditions will apply to charitable events:

  • A maximum of 15 signs are allowed for each such event. This includes directional signs.
  • The signs may be erected not more than 2 weeks before the event and must be removed within 2 days after the publicized event.
  • The size of the sign cannot exceed 2 feet by 3 feet.
  • Non-compliance may result in the removal of signs.

Please note that this press release pertains to Town of Westport roads, and not state roads, like Route 1, Route 33, Route 57 and Route 136.

Temporary Signs for Political Purposes

Political signs are considered an expression of free speech and are allowed on public property. The General Guidelines noted above apply to temporary signs for political purposes.

 

Unsung Hero #105

Last weekend’s double whammy — a wild, tree-limb-downing, power-outage- causing storm Saturday night; then an even more intense, violent and dangerous one just 18 hours later — stretched our resources to the limit.

On Sunday, the Fire Department responded to 80 calls in an hour. Police were everywhere. Emergency responders raced to deal with downed wires, trees on houses and in roads, even carbon monoxide issues.

For the rest of the day, and throughout Monday, the guys (and gals) whose business it is to handle emergencies like this did just that.

Quickly, efficiently — and often thanklessly — they restored electricity, cut trees, removed limbs, replaced wires, directed traffic, and got Westport back to normal.

A familiar scene. This is Greens Farms Road, at Rustic Lane. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

If you helped, you’re our Unsung Heroes of the Week. Without our firefighters, police, EMTs, traffic agents, Public Works crews, town engineers, utility workers. private contractors — and everyone who supports them — this town would be a mess.

You’re always there when we need you. Hopefully we won’t need you again for quite a while.

But somehow, I doubt it.

Read And Heed: Traffic Info For Fireworks Tomorrow

Headed to the fireworks tomorrow?

You and everyone else! Here are some things to know before you go. According to the Westport Police:

This well-attended event with heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic affects all roads south of Greens Farms Road, between Compo Road South and Hillspoint Road. Spectators should plan ahead, as traffic delays are inevitable.

The beach closes at 4 p.m. Fireworks ticket holders will be asked to report to their cars, to verify they can remain parked in the lot.

The beach should reopen to ticket holders by approximately 5 p.m. That’s the time vehicles will be allowed in. Drivers should display their ticket prominently on the dashboard.

If everyone cooperates, getting into the beach goes smoothly.

Vehicular access will be through South Compo Road only. Hillspoint Road south of Greens Farms Road will be open only to people who live south of that intersection.

Vehicles without a ticket cannot go closer to Compo Beach than the Minute Man statue. Shuttle buses will run from Longshore Park by the marina to Compo Beach, if the tickets for the beach sell out. So far, a few tickets remain unsold.

Uber, Lyft and taxis will be directed straight past the Minute Man on Compo Road South. People being dropped off can walk from the corner of Compo Road South and Soundview Drive to the beach.

NOTE: If you use this method of transportation, return service will not be available until after 11 p.m., due to 1-way traffic exiting the beach area.

At the end of the fireworks display, 2-way traffic will be suspended on Compo Beach Road and South Compo Road to the intersection of Greens Farms Road. There will be 2 lanes of northbound traffic on those streets until the beach is cleared.

Residents of this area will encounter delays getting home for approximately 1 hour, or until traffic has cleared from the Compo Beach area.

Hillspoint Road is also used for drivers leaving the beach.

Anyone planning to pick up family members in the beach area should also plan for delays.

Storm Sequel: Police Report Road Closures

As cleanup and repairs continue after yesterday’s storm, the Westport Police Department urges residents to stay home. They say: “If you must be on the road, please drive with caution. Do not attempt to go around police tape and/or barricades.

“Please be considerate of these conditions during your morning commute. Allow for extra time, as damage has been extensive.”

These roads are still closed:

  • Long Lots Lane
  • 1 Long Lots Road
  • 30 Long Lots Road
  • Long Lots Road at Morningside Drive North
  • 30 Morningside Drive South
  • Spicer Court at Spicer Road
  • 6 Clapboard Hill Road
  • 235 Greens Farms Road
  • 245 Greens Farms Road
  • 23 Hillandale Road

The WPD also reminds Westporteres to treat every downed wire as if it were live, even if it does not appear to be energized.

Power outage reports, general outage questions, or non-emergency issues associated with electrical repairs should be directed to Eversource: 800-286-2000.

This Colony Road home sustained a direct hit from a tree during yesterday’s storm. One resident sustained minor injuries. The house was declared uninhabitable. (Photo/Westport Fire Department)

Use The Sidewalk. It’s The Law!

It’s not the weightiest question ever — nothing like, say, what came before the Big Bang, or who killed JFK.

But it sure puzzles me. Why — when there are perfectly good sidewalks — do so many Westporters choose instead to walk in the road?

North Avenue.  South Compo. Long Lots. You name it: If there’s a sidewalk, most people won’t use it.

Sometimes they’re on the opposite side (walking incorrectly, with traffic). Sometimes they’re on the same side as the sidewalk. Yet they ignore it — or worse yet, treat it with contempt. Like, screw you, sidewalk. I’m not going walk on you.

Sidewalks are for other people.

For a long time I thought that was my pet peeve. But I have company.

The other day, alert “06880”reader/former Staples High School classmate, and — most importantly for this story, retired Westport Police detective — Dave Eason emailed me.

He had just gotten home after running errands. No one was on the sidewalks — but he saw plenty of folks on the roads.

Turns out, we’re not the only ones aggravated by this. Dave sent along Connecticut General Statute 14-300c (a). It says:

No pedestrian shall walk along and upon a roadway where a sidewalk adjacent to such roadway is provided and the use thereof is practicable.

I don’t imagine this is Chief Foti Koskinas’ top enforcement priority. Nor should it be.

But here’s your warning, streetwalkers: The law is on our side.

Sidewalks are there on the side too. Use them!