Tag Archives: Westport Police Department

Craig Bergamo: Westport Kids’ Best PAL

Craig Bergamo has quite a back story.

He grew up “everywhere,” he says — in and out of shelters. He and his brother were shuttled from place to place.

When Bergamo was 17, his parents died. He wanted to join the military, but for his brother to keep Section 8 housing, Bergamo had to live there as his dependent.

During tough times, police officers had always been nice to Bergamo. He looked up to them. To give back, he studied criminology in college.

Craig Bergamo

In 2006 — just 22 years old — he was hired by the Westport Police Department. His duties include overseeing the car seat program, motorcycle instructor and field training.

Bergamo won the Medal of Valor, for his actions in the Westport force’s first shooting in 30 years.

He also earned a Community Service Award for his fundraising with LivFree, a pediatric cancer support group.

Giving back is a key part of who Bergamo is. He coached in Norwalk’s Pop Warner football program for 6 years.

Early in his Westport police career, PAL athletic director Carmen Roda suggested he get involved with the local program. He became head football coach for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, then volunteered as secretary and vice president.

Now he’s in charge of the entire Westport PAL.

Earlier this month, Bergamo succeeded Ned Batlin as president.

It’s a big job. PAL serves thousands of youngsters through football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, rugby, track and cheerleading programs.

PAL also runs a robust scholarship program, the ice skating rink at Longshore — and Westport’s annual Independence Day fireworks.

Plenty of (pre-COVID) action at the PAL Rink at Longshore.

“This is an amazing organization,” Bergamo says. “The motto is ‘All about the kids and community.’ It’s safe and friendly. There are not many Police Athletic Leagues still out there. But ours is going strong.”

Bergamo is already planning new fundraising efforts — like a car show, digital events, perhaps a gala “when things are normal.”

Wrestling is one of Westport PAL’s many programs.

For someone who grew up in shelters, and lost his parents as a teenager, offering hope and activities to youngsters is crucial. In addition to his PAL efforts, he coaches his daughters in softball.

“When I see 3rd graders I coached move up to high school, and then graduate. I get chills,” Bergamo says. “I’ve had great interactions with them, and their parents. That’s what PAL is all about.”

(To learn more about Westport PAL — and participate in the See’s Candy Shop fundraiser — click here.)

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.

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:

RTM Upgrades Radio System, Seawall; Appoints Transit Director

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

December’s RTM meeting featured several housekeeping items, and 3 appropriation requests.

Dan Woog’s invocation gave thanks for America’s democratic traditions. He thanked the RTM for all it does for Westport, describing the RTM as ”its own tradition. It is non-partisan. It represents every segment of town. It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”

Members then reelected Velma Heller as moderator and Jeff Wieser as deputy moderator for the 4th time, and thanked retiring Town Clerk Patty Strauss for her 23 years of service to the RTM and the town.

The RTM also thanked Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa, who resigned as directors of the Westport Transit District, for their nearly 5 years’ service as directors.

The most expensive appropriation was $4,635,408 for a new public safety radio system. The current system is 15 year old, and has parts that can no longer be repaired.

The new system will piggyback on the state’s existing system. making it significantly less expensive than buying a stand-alone setup. The new system enables the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services to communicate together for the first time, and expands the area covered by the system.

$230,000 was approved to repair the seawall along the river at Jesup Green. The project adds a railing atop the seawall to help minimize accidental falls into the river. While the RTM agreed safety should be a priority, hope was expressed that the railing will obstruct river views as little as possible.

Repairs will be made along the Saugatuck River seawall.

The RTM also approved $80,000 for the design and permitting stage of a project to repair the Old Mill walkway and tide gates.

The final agenda item was to appoint a new volunteer director for the Westport Transit District.

Peter Gold, former chair of the RTM Transit Committee (and the author of this article) was nominated, because of his familiarity with the Transit District’s operations. He would resign once the town came up with a plan for the future of the Transit District.

A motion was made to delay appointing a new transit director until February to give the town additional time to decide on a course of action.

Peter Gold

While some thought the absence of a director would prod the town to take action more quickly, others noted that a director must be in place now to deal with day-to day operations, including the new Wheels 2U Westport on-demand door-to train station commuter service, and to prepare the Transit District’s budget for the next fiscal year.

The appointment of a director would not prevent the town from formulating its own solution. Based on this, and Gold’s knowledge and experience with the Transit District, he was appointed as a director by a vote of 34 in favor, and 1 abstention.

 

 

Roundup: Pearl Closes, Scam Warning, More


Yesterday marked the final day for Pearl at Longshore.

Judy Auber Jahnel was there, as the waterside restaurant ended its 5-year run. She says: “Had a wonderful early, last (melancholy) dinner and sunset at Pearl tonight. The staff even took a pic on the lawn. I’ll miss them!

(Photo/Judy Auber Jahnel)


Police report a scam in Saugatuck.

Someone entered a store yesterday, claiming he had to inspect the fire extinguishers. He told an employee he had spoken with the store manager, and showed an invoice for $198.15 to cover the replacements that the manager had “agreed would be paid in cash.” The employee paid; the man said he’d return with 2 new extinguishers, but never did.

The suspect is white, approximately 6 feet tall and 190 pounds, in his 30s. His black sweater and blue shirt attempted to mimic a Fire Department official. Anyone with information about this scam should call 203-341-6000.


And finally … George Harrison died 19 years ago today, of lung cancer. He was just 58.

Nearly everyone has a favorite Beatle. He was mine.

Roundup: Toy Drive, Y Pool, More


If it’s Thanksgiving, it must be time for the Westport Police Department’s annual Toy Ddrive.

Local union 2080 and the Westport Police Benevolent Association are sponsoring the event. Each year, thousands of toys are distributed to underprivileged children throughout Fairfield County, and at Bridgeport and St. Vincent’s Hospitals.

Westport police officers will accept new, unopened and unwrapped toys at the ASF parking lot (1560 Post Road East) on the first 2 Saturdays and Sundays in December (5, 6, 12 and 13), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, collection boxes will be set up now through December 14 at:

  • Age of Reason, 9 Post Road West
  • ASF Sports & Outdoors ,1560 Post Road East
  • Awesome Toys and Gifts, 429 Post Road East
  • The Toy Post, 180 Post Road East

Questions? Email anowinski@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-6000.

What a great gift for a kid!


Swimming at the Y has been my COVID happy place. Nothing like a pool-ful of chlorine to keep the coronavirus at bay.

No longer. The Westport Weston Family Y announced yesterday that effective immediately, both the lap and warm pools will be shut down indefinitely.

The decision was based on updated guidelines from the governor’s office. Under those rules, only 4 swimmers could be allowed at any time.

The wellness center, gymnastics center, group fitness classes and school-age childcare programs remain open.

The Westport Y pool will look like this for a while.


And finally … c’mon! You didn’t really expect anything different today, did you?

Roundup: COVID, Outpost Pizza, New Cop, More


Here’s one way to look at Westport’s COVID numbers: Since March, we’ve had 516 cases (483 confirmed and 33 probable).

Here’s another: With a population of 26,213, 1.97% — nearly 2% — of the entire town has been infected. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)


Outpost Pizza — an outpost of the Stamford spot — opens Monday. It’s in the mini-shopping plaza with Coffee An’, across from the new Hudson Malone restaurant (most recently, 323). The space was formerly a dry cleaner.

Need a job, as well as a pie? Outpost is looking for cooks, prep workers, cashiers and drivers. Call 203-323-7678. (Hat tip: Jerri Graham)

(Photo/Jerri Graham)


The Westport Police Department has sworn in a new officer: Dominique Carr.

The Hartford native earned a BS in justice and law administration at Western Connecticut State University, where he also played football. He comes to Westport from the Windsor Police Department.

Welcome to Westport, Officer Carr!

Officer Dominique Carr


If you missed “Pride and Prejudice” — Staples Players’ 2nd radio play of the fall — you’ve get another chance this Sunday (November 15, 6 p.m.).

It will be re-streamed by the high school radio station, WWPT. Click here for the link. NOTE: It’s available on the website only — not on the radio dial itself.

Seniors Sophie Rossman and David Corro rehearse “Pride and Prejudice.” (Photo/Kerry Long)


Speaking of teenagers and the arts: High school students throughout Fairfield County are invited to apply for the just-announced Westport Country Playhouse Youth Council.

Meeting 6 times a year (virtually, to start), members will learn about the workings of a professional theater. They’ll also contribute creative solutions for how the Playhouse can broaden its appeal to a more diverse community.

Youth Council members will also participate in a speaker series, attend Board of Trustees meetings, create an event, and have behind-the-scenes access to the Playhouse.

The application deadline is November 20. Click here for more information.


The Leonard Schine Preserve got a spruce-up last weekend. And we can thank a bunch of SLOBs.

The group — okay, they’re actually Staples High School’s Service League of Boys — worked with Meg Armstrong and Barry Guiduli at the Natural Playground, a hidden children’s gem off Weston Road.

(From left): Nick Seitz, Ben Berkley, Bruno Guiduli, Gabe Maiolo at the Leonard Schine Preserve.


I don’t spend a lot of time at Sherwood Island. (I know. My bad.)

But Chris Swan does. The other day, he sent photos of what seemed to me like a strange sight.

But, Chris says, horses (and riders) are a regular occurrence at Connecticut’s first state park.

(Photos/Chris Swan)


And finally … today is a day to honor our veterans. As Billy Ray Cyrus sings, some gave all. And all gave some.

Isaias: Lessons Learned

Next month (November 9, 6 p.m., online), the Westport Emergency Management Team will discuss its response to Tropical Isaias.

Meanwhile, a 15-page report on the storm and its aftermath has been posted on the town website.

It’s a fascinating document. From acknowledging the unique challenges of responding to a major weather event during a pandemic, to statistics on the thousands of phone calls and incident reports that poured in to first responders, and nuggets like the importance of hiring a retired Eversource engineer (and Westport resident) to lend expertise, the report is a blueprint for what went right during the August storm.

And what did not go so well.

Several days after Isaias, this was still the scene on Charcoal Hill Road. (Photo/Pat Blaufuss)

The document summarizes challenges, including staffing, technology, data and reporting, call dispatching, WiFi and charging stations.

It concludes with “Lessons Learned.” They include:

  • The importance of flexibility. For example, Westport planned for a flood event. Isaias’ damage came mainly from wind.
  • Anticipating that technology will fail. Downed wires and power outages rendered cell phones inoperable. Backup plans are always needed.
  • The importance of advertising Staples High School radio station WWPT (90.3 FM) as a resource, and reminding residents to have a radio at home — with batteries.
  • Aggressive tree pruning and removal “should be more seriously considered.”
  • Continued participation in regional emergency response drills. These simulate multiple simultaneous crises, and encourage creative solutions.
  • Nixle “is best used for short concise emergency notifications.”
  • The Police Department is acquiring more emergency signs.

Cones — not signs — confounded drivers on Post Road West. (Photo/Leah Nash)

Among the specific recommendations:

  • Developing a plan for technology failure — specifically, internet issues.
  • Improving senior-level communications and relationships with Eversource, cable and telephone utilities, and especially internet and wireless carriers.
  • Continuing to urge residents and businesses to sign up for town news, and follow the town on social media.
  • Establishing a town-wide mailing with emergency and preparedness information.
  • Establishing an annual plan for community preparedness educaiton.
  • Sending all department supervisors — not just Fire Department personnel — to national emergency training.
  • Developing a shared Excel file for tracking and coordinating road closures and downed wires, between departments.
  • Updating the Local Emergency Operation Plan, and dedicating time for all departments to train.
  • Investing in minor technical improvements to WWPT-FM.
  • Closing all Parks and Recreation facilities immediately upon advice of incoming storms, and reopening them only after each location has been deemed safe.

Click here for the full Emergency Management Team Isaias after-action report.

(The Emergency Management Team meeting on November 9 will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and broadcast on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Members of the public may submit questions and comments to webmaster@westportct.gov with the subject line “Storm Isaias After-Action Meeting” before November 9. Relevant uestions and comments received during the public comment portion of the meeting will be read aloud.)

It took a while for utility crews to arrive in Westport. The post-Isaias report recommends better communication with utilities and technology companies. (Photo/Peter Nussbaum)

Roundup: Sidewalk Stroll, Bank Robbery, Spencer Gabor, More

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With great weather forecast all week, Westport Moms quickly organized a Shopping Stroll.

Set for this Friday (October 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Elm Street courtyard across from Serena & Lily), it’s drawn vendors from the tri-state area selling unique merchandise: waterproof blankets, winter wear, pajamas, athleisure, masks, fun home accessories, jewelry and more.

The Moms hope Church Street and Main Street stores will put merchandise outside, and restaurants will offer lunch and coffee discounts. Masks are (of course) required.


Yesterday afternoon, a man robbed the People’s United Bank branch inside Stop & Shop.

A suspect has been tied to 3 other bank robberies, in Fairfield, Norwalk and Shelton. Westport Police ask for the public’s help in identifying the suspect. A reward of up to $1,500 is offered.

The detective bureau can be reached at 203-341-6080. [NOTE: The video originally posted with this story is now inoperable.]

A screen shot of the suspect.


After graduating from Staples High School in 2015, Spencer Gabor headed to Fordham University to study business.

But he’d always liked drawing. As he pursued his degree he spent every moment outside class drawing, learning Adobe Suite, and taking on art projects. He reached out to startups and did pro bono work, just to amass a portfolio.

Today he’s illustrating and designing for major brands around the world, like NPR and (go figure) Marcus by Goldman Sachs.

Dribble — a website for design professionals — recently interviewed him about his “drastic but fulfilling” career change. Click here for the full story.

Spencer Gabor (Photo courtesy of Dribble)


And finally … in honor of Friday’s Sidewalk Stroll: