Category Archives: Police

Stolen Car, Attempted Robbery Shake Westport

Two crimes in less than 14 hours have jarred Westporters.

At approximately 8:05 a.m. yesterday (Monday), Westport Police received a report of a vehicle stolen from the Post Road East Exxon gas station, near Maple Avenue South. The operator of the 2019 Honda Pilot was paying for gas inside the when his car was stolen from the pump.

Post Road Exxon: Scene of the car theft.

A short time later, Westport Police located the stolen vehicle near Turkey Hill Road and Post Road East. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle but disengaged due to the suspect’s reckless driving and high speeds.

Minutes later, at approximately 8:12 a.m., a Fairfield Police detective came upon a motor vehicle crash involving the stolen vehicle at the intersection of Post Road and Jelliff Lane in that town.

The gray Honda Pilot rolled over and came to a stop. The driver, later identified as a juvenile male from Bridgeport, was ejected from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries. Fairfield Police and fire personnel provided emergency medical care at the scene. He was taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center, where he died.

The Fairfield Police Crash Investigation Unit is conducting an investigation and reconstruction of the crash, while the Westport Police Department continues to investigate the stolen vehicle incident. Initial data indicates the suspect vehicle was traveling 99 miles per hour 5 seconds before the crash occurred.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has additional information should call Westport Police: 203-341-6000.

The day before — approximately 6:30 p.m. Sunday — Westport officers responded to Walgreens, on a report of an attempted robbery.

Walgreens: Scene of an attempted robbery.

The victim had finished purchasing some items. As she was about to enter her vehicle a Toyota Rav 4, which had been reported stolen from the city of Norwalk earlier that day, backed into the parking space next to her car.

Two males exited the Toyota, approached the victim, and threatened to harm her if she did not turn over her keys and other personal property.

When the victim did not comply, the men rifled through her pockets. A third man came out of Walgreens, and got in the car.

Unable to locate her keys or any other items of value, the suspects fled toward I-95. The victim was uninjured.

Roundup: Super Bowl Sounds, PAL, Minute Man, More

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I’m not a fan of the fake crowd noise that’s pumped into sports broadcasts, ever since the pandemic slashed — or eliminated — crowds.

But I’ve always wondered how they did it.

Yesterday, on his regular “CBS Sunday Morning” gig, David Pogue explained.

He took a trip from his Westport home — where some of the segment was filmed — and headed to Met Life Stadium for a chat with (among others) Harry Carson. I guess the actual Giants team was unavailable, although there is some doubt as to whether they have an actual team.

At any rate, it’s an intriguing piece. Click below to watch:

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Westport PAL president Ned Batlin is stepping down.

The Westport police officer — a former 3-sport athlete at Staples High School (football, wrestling, lacrosse) — has led the organization for 5 years. PAL serves thousands of youngsters through football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, rugby, track and cheerleading programs.

PAL also runs a robust scholarship program — and Westport’s annual Independence Day fireworks.

Batlin — who will remain on the Westport Police Department force — will be succeeded by PAL vice president and veteran police officer Craig Bergamo.

Officer Ned Batlin, at Westport PAL’s 2015 July 4th celebration.

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Love is in the air. And the Westport Downtown Merchants Association want you to feel it, by using an eGift Card.

Or giving a gift card, as a gift.

The card can be used at many locations downtown, including retailers, restaurants and service providers. Click here to purchase. Click here for a list of participating businesses.

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They’re not called Friends of Sherwood Island for nothing.

On Friday, the group’s garden team kept Connecticut’s first state park looking good — and healthy. They pruned suckers from the base of several 200-year-old trees on the west beach. Many are from Westport.

It’s all part of their year-round effort to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat.

From left: From left to right: Barrie Holmes, Michele Sorensen, Chris Swan, Jackson and Johannes Cregan, Lavinia Larsson and Pamela Nobomuto.

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A certain segment of Westporters loves decorating our Minute Man. They decorate him with Santa Claus hats, Easter bunny ears, and (last spring) a COVID mask. It’s all part of humanizing our town’s most recognizable symbol.

Another segment thinks that’s disrespectful. He’s a patriot, they say; don’t make light of what he symbolizes.

Whichever side of the memorial’s wrought-iron gate you’re on, you must agree: Yesterday’s decoration was certainly different.

(Photo/Pam Kesselman)

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The Fire Department responded to a potentially dangerous blaze yesterday, on Bayberry Lane.

First arriving units found a 2-story, 2-family home with fire on both floors, and the attic.

Second floor residents were alerted to the fire by a carbon monoxide detector. They notified residents of the first floor to evacuate. There were no injuries, but 3 residents were displaced by the fire.

Wilton and Fairfield Fire Departments assisted on scene, and with station coverage during the fire.

The Westport Fire Department reminds residents to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of their homes.

Aftermath of the Bayberry Lane fire. (Photo courtesy of Westport Fire Department)

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Anne Lowrie’s snowman looks suspiciously like her father, Tom — right down to the Sunrise Rotary cap.

(Photo/Anne Lowrie)

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And finally … James Dean was born on this day, in 1931. He died in a car crash in 1955, age 24. Had he lived, the star of “Rebel Without a Cause” would be celebrating his 90th birthday.

 

Roundup: NewBrook, Law Enforcement, More


After 4 years in business, many Westporters still have not heard of NewBrook Kitchen + Artisan Market. COVID — which knocked out indoor seating — has not helped.

That’s a shame.

The small, friendly Saugatuck Avenue paleo café/bakery/cooking school/all-purpose event kitchen has something for everyone. NewBrook calls itself

They’re gluten-, dairy-, soy- and refined-sugar free. But, they say, “we’re never free from taste!” The tagline is: “Where the modern cave people dine.” (During the pandemic, of course, all dining is takeout.)

They’ve just added 3 new entrees (all very popular as specials), a new salad and toppers, additional wraps, and a “pressed panini of the week.”

With mother/daughter team of Cindy and Danielle Hartog the only 2 employees, NewBrook might be the most COVID-friendly spot in town.

Besides the full daily menu, they offer a wide retail array of gluten-free snacks, ingredients, and hard-to-find products.

Click here for the full new menu. A special Valentine’s Day meal is available for pickup February 11. Click here for more information on NewBrook. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.


Dr. Joan and Dennis Poster wrote yesterday:

“A very big shout-out to the entire Westport Police Department on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. For all they do every day keeping our community safe, and for all those that serve: Thank you! Be well, and be safe.”

Amen! We are so lucky to have the officers and leaders that we do. “06880” adds a hearty “thank you” to all.

(Photos/Amy Berkin)


And finally … Jim Croce was born today in 1943. The singer/songwriter died — way too young — at 30, in a plane crash.

Roundup: Community Gathering, Authors Way, Car Heist, More


In response to yesterday’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob, Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Michael Friedman writes:

“Where the rule of law reigns, Jews have flourished. Where lawlessness spreads, we have suffered.

“Similarly, the ancient sage Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught: ‘Great is peace… if the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world.’

“The Jewish community of Fairfield County will gather tonight (Thursday, January 7, 7 to 7:30 p.m.) online to find comfort in the strength of our community, and to offer prayers for our nation and prayers for peace.”

Click here to register for the webinar.


“Authors Way” is the name of a new subdivision of 4 homes, planned at #14 Hillandale Road.

That’s a nod to Westport’s many famous writers — including A.E. Hotchner. The novelist/playwright/biographer — known for his books about friends like Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman (with whom he founded the Newman’s Own philanthropy) — died last February. He was 102, and had lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

His property included a large house. Built in 1928, it was originally part of a 40-acre estate, including a long allée.

Plans call for the homes to be built on 1-acre plots, between Wakeman Road and Ellery Lane. Hotchner’s home — with high ceilings and large rooms — may be torn down as early as Monday (January 11). An application for demolition was made before the Historic District Commission on July 15. They upheld a 180-day delay.

14 Hillandale Road


Police report that at 9:04 a.m. yesterday, the driver of a BMW was pumping gas at the Post Road Exxon station by South Maple Avenue.

A male jumped in and drove off, at a high rate of speed.

GPS tracked the vehicle. West Haven officers tried to pull the driver over. After striking several vehicles in heavy traffic, he finally stopped.

As one of the 2 occupants was taken into custody, the other entered a patrol car. He slammed it into reverse, striking several officer.

The cruiser became disabled after being driven through a nearby cemetery. The second suspect — like the first, a juvenile — was apprehended without further incident.

Westport police remind all motorists to secure their vehicles, even when stepping out for a moment.

For a video of the apprehension of the suspects, click here.


Congressman Jim Himes says:

As part of the recent COVID relief package, qualifying individuals will receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600, and up to $600 per dependent child under the age of 17. You can check the status of your EIP by clicking here.

Individuals who make an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household will receive the full $600. EIPs will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of annual income above $75,000 for individual and $150,000 for household. To receive an EIP, you must have a work-eligible Social Security Number. Click here for additional information, including information on new provisions on eligibility for U.S. citizens who file their taxes jointly with a non-citizen.

Some eligible individuals and families did not receive their initial Economic Impact Payment. The IRS is instructing these Americans to claim their payment when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Eligible individuals can claim the so-called “Recovery Rebate Credit” on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible to do so. Taxpayers whose incomes fell in 2020 from 2019 can also claim a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return for the difference between the amount they are entitled to under the law and the amount they received as an advanced payment.

For more information, click here.


Beginning Monday (January 11), the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane will begin reduced winter hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Regular hours resume March 8.

Christmas trees will continue to be accepted from Westport residents during winter hours.

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

The Parks & Recreation Department has introduced a “Winter Wonderland Walking Challenge.”

Residents are invited to walk, jog or run a distance of their choice, and track their progress.

It runs now through March 31. To register, click here.

Go for it! (Photo/Rowene Weems)


And finally … on this day of outrage, mourning and reflection, we can also be uplifted by Phil Ochs’ stirring anthem.

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all).

RTM January Meeting: Code Of Conduct Committee, Police Review Board

This is Peter Gold’s report on the January Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.

No votes were taken at January’s RTM meeting, which saw the announcement of a new special RTM committee, the first reading of an ordinance to establish a civilian police review board, and the announcement of a new town clerk to replace the retiring Patty Strauss.

While RTM rules already require RTM members to conduct themselves in a manner above reproach, Velma Heller, RTM moderator, noted that the start of a new year is a timely occasion to take a step back and review RTM practices. She appointed a special committee of 7 RTM members to see if there is room for improvement, and to clarify expectations regarding conduct at public meetings and in written communications.

The committee is charged with developing a Code of Conduct that articulates desired behaviors that embody the RTM’s values and principles as an organization. The Code of Conduct will cover topics such as Freedom of Information Act issues, the general use of email and social media, and commonly accepted standards of decorum for participation in public discourse, whether in person or on line.

A proposed ordinance was introduced to establish an elected civilian police review board. It would receive, investigate and make recommendations on complains regarding the police. The ultimate decision on any complaint will remain with the chief of police.

Click here for the full text of the proposed ordinance (immediately following the list of upcoming RTM meetings).

The proposed ordinance will be reviewed at upcoming public meetings of the RTM Public Protection and Ordinance Committees. It will be debated and voted on at a subsequent RTM meeting, most likely in February or March.

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, the elected civilian police review board would replace the civilian review panel recently appointed by First Selectman Marpe. That panel reviews and provides feedback on documented complaints regarding the police that are investigated by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, it can not investigate complaints. Also unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, Marpe’s panel also reviews complaints regarding the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.

Marpe also announced that Jeff Dunkerton, the assistant town clerk in Danbury, will replace Patty Strauss who recently retired as Westport’s town clerk.

Westport Says Farewell To Vinny Penna

Police officers from far and wide joined hundreds of Vinny Penna’s Westport friends this morning, to bid a final farewell to their colleague and friend.

The retired deputy police chief died last week, at 51.

The Saugatuck native’s Assumption Church funeral Mass was livestreamed. A graveside service follows, at the Assumption cemetery on Greens Farms Road.

(Photos/Amy Schneider)

Roundup: Vinny Penna Services, Floating Christmas Tree, More


The family of Vincent Penna Jr. — the former deputy police chief who died last week at 51 — has announced that due to COVID restrictions, the mass of Christian burial at Assumption Church tomorrow (Tuesday, December 22) will be private.

However, the mass will be livestreamed on the Assumption Church website (click here). The mass is at 10 a.m.; the livestream begins at 9:50 a.m.

Friends and family may attend a socially distanced graveside service tomorrow (Tuesday, December 22, 11:30 a.m.) at Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road. Click here to leave online condolences.

Vincent Penna Jr.


Susan Ford has seen a lot of interesting, cool and offbeat stuff off Compo Beach.

But until last night, she’d never seen a floating Christmas tree.

“If you find out who the incredible captain is who spread such cheer tonight, please thank them for me,” she says. “The smiles on my boys’ faces were lovely to see!”

(Photo/Susan Ford)


And, not to be outdone, Tanya LaClair spotted this (slightly) more permanent sight, on Saugatuck Island:

(Photo/Tanya LaClair)


Vaccines are here. But it’s way too early to toss your mask.

Tutem is a small, women-owned face mask manufacturer with roots in Westport. They make 3-ply disposable masks — but not the blah blue kind.

Tutem’s masks feature stylish designs. They’re individually wrapped for safe handling, are made in the US, and available in adult and child sizes.

Tutem has already donated to Westport organizations. Now, they’re offering Westport residents 25% off any masks.

If you have a Westport shipping or billing address, click here. At checkout, use this Discount Code: 06880.

And if your shipping address is 06880, you get free shipping too. Select “Local Delivery” as your shipping method at checkout.

 

One of Tutem’s mask designs.


And finally … winter is (officially) here! It arrived at 5:02 this morning.

This haunting Fleet Foxes song actually has nothing to do with winter, beyond the title. But it’s a lot more beautiful than “Winter Wonderland.”

Remembering Vinny Penna

Westporters have been stunned by the death yesterday of Vincent Penna, apparently of a heart attack. He was 51 years old.

A police officer for 26 years, he retired as deputy chief in 2017. He began as a patrol officer, became a detective in 2001 and sergeant in 2006, then returned to the detective bureau in a leadership role before being named deputy chief.

Along the way he served on the Westport Police tactical team, and was a field training officer, certified firearms instructor and professional standards commander. As captain he oversaw all operations of the detective bureau, including DARE, the Regional Task Force and Domestic Violence Victims Unit.

As deputy chief he was responsible for the Westport Emergency Medical Services, Internal Affairs Division, Public Information Office, Animal Control Division, Training Division and Information Management Team.

Vincent Penna Jr.

Penna received many awards and commendations for bravery, and was tenacious in his investigations. A high profile murder case was solved with his dedication, management skills and ability to work with, federal and international agencies.

He also served as president of the Westport Police Union Local 2080, and the Westport Police Benevolent Association.

When he retired, Penna said his legacy at the department would be his work to get Westport included in Norwalk’s juvenile review board, and his role in helping the department become one of 40 around the state to achieve Tier 1 accreditation.

“Vinny” was the son of Vincent Penna Sr., longtime owner of Penna Construction. The family has deep roots in Saugatuck.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas calls Penna’s death “a devastating loss. In the most stressful situations, he kept people together with his presence and his humor.”

Koskinas recalls many instances when Penna saw someone suffering. “He wrote a check, or got them food or clothes. He always did the right thing, even — especially — when no one was looking.”

Early in his career, as a brand new officer, there was a double drowning in a local pool. “The steps Vinny took, the condolences he offered — I saw a side of humanity that sticks with me today,” the chief says. “He was devastated, but he did whatever he could to help out.”

Koskinas notes Penna’s special ties to Westport.

“Public service is always special. But to serve the community you were brought up in is even more special. When the time came for him to leave his ‘family’ at the Police Department, and take over his family business with his father, it was just another way of giving back to the village he and his family had been raised in.”

Koskinas notes that Penna was also “an incredible father. As much as he gave to his community, his first priority was his wife Denise and his sons, Vincent and Nicholas. He did not miss a game or an event, or even a doctor’s appointment. They were his life.”

Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola grew up with Penna. “We lived together, worked together and fished together,” he says. “He was a great family man — father, husband son. That was most important to him.”

Penna purchased a boat this summer, Arciola says, and spent many hours on the water with his wife and boys.

“But he was a great police officer too. And he was just such a good person. He would do anything for you.”

RTM member Andrew Colabella adds, “Vinny and his family were 2 pillars of this town. Through law enforcement and construction, they served the public and the community with the highest respect and integrity.

“No job was too big or hard to complete. No crime went unanswered or unsolved.

“He was the ultimate Westport role model. He was born and raised here. He worked for the town, and in town. He loved the town, with the goal to continue raising his family here just like the Pennas have done for generations. This is such a loss to everyone.”

Roundup: Food Drive, All-American, More


Two important organizations (Homes with Hope and the Norwalk NAACP) will benefit from a drive sponsored by 2 important department (Westport Police and Human Services), and an important business (Mental Grit Fitness).

This Friday (December 18, 12 noon to 4:30 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot), you can drop off non-perishable foods, toiletries and cleaning supplies.

You can help another way too: by volunteering at the drive. Click here to sign up.


Congratulations, Autumn Smith! The Staples High School senior soccer player has been named to United Soccer Coaches’ All-America team.

She scored 38 goals, and added 49 assists, in her stellar career (shortened this year by COVID). Due to the coronavirus too, there will not be an actual awards ceremony as in previous years.

That hardly diminishes Autumn’s accomplishment though. Well done!

Autumn Smith


Dan Hoffman writes about a pet peeve:

“When I make a local phone call with a 203 area code, I try to guess whether I need to use a prefix of ‘1’ or not.

“When I’m wrong, a program tells me either I need to use a 1 or I don’t need to use a 1.

“If the phone system knows the answer, why does it make me redial instead of just putting the call through? Always drives me nuts.”


They don’t call it JoyRide for nothing.

A new app — JoyRideGO — brings the popular Westport-based fitness community’s joy and energy to cyberspace.

It features on-demand and live fitness class to enJoy (ho ho) anywhere, any time. They include the signature JoyRide cycle classes; popular JoyX Strength, Pilates, barre and yoga classes, and hybrids like Cycle + Strength, Cycle + Pilates, Abs + Arms, and Abs + Glutes. All are taught by JoyRide instructors.

Classes range from 15 to 50 minutes. A 14-day free trial is available on the App Store and Google Play. Questions? Email joyridego@joyridestudio.com.


No one likes waiting in traffic.

Unless you’re by Playhouse Square, in front of Winslow Park Animal Hospital.

They always manage to amuse drives. Here’s their latest holiday tableau.

PS: Enjoy it now. Tomorrow it may be covered by snow.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

Speaking of traffic: How’s this for a great photo of Westport’s worst intersection?

Taken this way by Rowene Weems, it looks almost magical.

(Photo/Rowene Weems)


As COVID cases rise, the Pequot in Southport — Westporters’ 2nd favorite library — has temporarily suspended browsing hours. Curbside pickup is still available.

The Pequot Library.

And finally … in honor of today:

New Civilian Panel Reviews Police

Soon after the 2013 election, new First Selectman Jim Marpe met with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas.

“I’d never been a police officer,” Marpe — a former management consultant — says. “I needed their best input.”

Today, he notes, “I’m a lot smarter about their activity — and the Fire Department, and EMS.” Though the leaders of those department report to him, Marpe describes their relationship as “more collaborative than command-and-control.”

Nearly 5 years ago, Marpe appointed Koskinas as chief of police. He continued what Call had begun: a review of policies and procedures to reflect new national policing standards.

Westport’s manual dated back to 1972. It was one year younger than Koskinas.

The department enjoys an excellent reputation. In 7 years, Marpe says, “I don’t need 2 hands to count the number of genuine, legitimate complaints we’ve gotten — and that includes the Fire Department too.”

Nationally of course, police departments face intense scrutiny.

So — in addition to weekly meetings, and many more frequent phone conversations — Marpe has created a Citizen Review Panel. To “foster and maintain the public’s trust” in its public safety departments, the panel will:

  • Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments
  • Review and provide feedback on complaints
  • Advise the departments on policies and procedures that improve transparency and accountability.

CRP members will be trained to understand policies, internal affairs and legal issues. They’ll hold regular public meetings.

The CRP will include the 2nd and 3rd selectmen (currently Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane); one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 members of the Westport electorate. Marpe has appointed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey to the panel, and will name the 2 other members soon.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Koskinas says that the police union is on board with the CRP. “They want accountability and transparency too,” he says.

Westport’s police already meet or exceed the state’s Police Office Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in areas like body cameras, chokehold procedures and more. Minority recruitment — including the most recent hire — is “the most diverse ever,” says Koskinas.

“But we want an outside party to see the complaints that come in. We want to highlight how well we handle our internal policing.” Sometimes, he says, an investigation turns up an issue that the initial complaint did not even include.

In 2016 there were 6 civilian complaints against the Police Department. The next year there were 5, then 6 and 8. In 2020, there have been a total of 3. Complaints against the Fire Department and EMS are even lower.

Most police complaints, Koskinas says, involve citizens dissatisfied with an interaction with an officer.

“It may be the way someone stopped the car or spoke to that person,” Koskinas explains.

“We look at the body camera. Maybe the officer spoke in a monotone. We try to explain what goes into controlling a scene.” Often, he says, a complaint is then withdrawn.

“But we do speak to the officers. We do adjust policies. We take every complaint seriously.”

Nearly all police interactions with the public are positive.

The Representative Town Meeting is currently examining a Civilian Review Board ordinance. Its members would be elected by the public.

Already though, the Civilian Review Panel is up and running. They are reviewing their first incident.

“Mr. Marpe and I believe in this,” Koskinas says. “We want to set it up for long success.”