Tag Archives: Westport Police Department

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.

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)

Bear With Us

The Westport Police report that around 8:30 this morning, a North Avenue resident reported a black bear on his property. Officers tracked it to the area of 300 North Avenue and Tuck Lane.

The bear was not acting aggressively. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Wildlife Division was notified.

Police note that black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut. Residents should take precautions to prevent negative encounters with bears and nuisance behavior.

In 2013, Cablevision News12 aired this dramatic shot of a black bear in Westport.

Bears have an incredible sense of smell. Secure garbage in sturdy covered containers in a garage or outbuilding.

If you compost, do so responsibly. Do not throw meat scraps or greasy, oily or sweet materials in the compost pile. These foods attract bears and other animals.

Clean barbecues and grills after each use. Do not leave pet food outdoors, and remove bird feeders from your property for the summer.

Keep an eye on pets and small children playing outside.

If you see a bear, do not approach it. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. If left alone and given an avenue for escape, the bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas.

Sightings can be reported to Westport Animal Control (203-341-5076).  For more information on bears, click here.

Pets, Wildlife Star In Animal Control Awareness Night

If you live in Westport, at some point you’ve probably wondered:

  • What’s up with all these coyotes?
  • What do I do about an injured bird/raccoon/deer?
  • Is there anything I can do about my neighbor’s damn dog?

The answers come next Tuesday (March 5, 7 p.m.) from a somewhat unlikely source: the cops.

On second thought, it’s not so unusual. Westport’s Police Department has a robust Animal Control division. They’ll host that Animal Control Awareness Night, in the 2nd floor classroom at police headquarters on Jesup Road.

Do you know what to do when you see a coyote?

The goal is to educate the public about the Animal Control Division. Among the topics: animal control laws and town ordinances, disaster preparedness for pets, living with coyotes, protection from rabies, and what to do if you find injured wildlife.

Presenters include Dr. Sheldon Yessenow, state Animal Response Team regional director and a veterinary responder to Hurricane Katrina, and Peter Reid, associate director of Wildlife in Crisis.

The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Sorry — no dog treats.

Unsung Hero #85

Yvonne O’Kane’s dog barked frantically at 1 a.m. last month. She woke up, looked in the back of her Old Hill area home for deer, then took him outside to do his duty.

A few hours later, her husband went outside. Yvonne’s Mercedes convertible was gone.

The police arrived within 3 minutes. A great officer, Rachel Baron  — “lovely, compassionate and professional” — took the information. She described the work of crime gangs in Waterbury and Newark.

Because Yvonne’s checkbook and credit cards had been in the car, the officer told her to call her bank and card companies to freeze her accounts.

That morning, Yvonne headed to the police station to provide more information. Detective Phil Restieri was “awesome,” she says.

Detective Phil Restieri

He already had information: Her car had crossed the George Washington Bridge at 4 a.m. Someone had tried to use her credit card at Starbucks and McDonald’s in Newark. He gave her more advice on how to handle her lost items, and deal with her insurance company.

Phil told her that her car might be headed for a container ship. He was working with law enforcement contacts on the docks. “Everyone was already alerted,” Yvonne says.

Phil was calm, and reassuring. “His diligence and confidence gave me confidence,” Yvonne says.

Whenever she checked in, he had time for her. He — and the department — “really stayed on the case,” she adds. “No one ever made me feel like an idiot.”

After 3 weeks, Phil called. Yvonne’s car had been found, on the side of a Newark street.

He explained that stolen cars are often left on roadsides — or moved from garage to garage — until an order comes in from operatives for that particular make or model.

But Phil’s work was not done. He told Yvonne that he’d already arranged to have her vehicle towed to a safe place.

Yvonne got Westport Center Services to bring the car back from New Jersey. They delivered it to a service center in Bridgeport.

Yvonne was hesitant to go there at night. She worried there might be a weapon in the car. So — long after his shift was over — Phil met her in Bridgeport.

“It was awesome to have a police officer there,” Yvonne says. “He couldn’t have been nicer. And he said if I needed anything else, to just call.”

Phil Restieri — and all his colleagues at the Westport Police Department — are Yvonne O’Kane’s Unsung Heroes.

But here’s the thing: This is the kind of thing they do all day, every day.  We don’t hear about stories like this, unless they impact us. Or unless someone like Yvonne tells us.

So: If you’ve got a Westport Police Unsung Heroes story to share, click “Comments” below.

(Want to nominate your own Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net) 

If You See Something…

The Y’s Men of Westport/Weston often use email to circulate useful information. John Brandt recently sent this to 400+ members. The message is worth sharing with the larger “06880” community too. 

Call it “a word to the Y’s.”

You may have read that there were several break-ins on Washington Avenue and Evergreen Avenue last week. On Sunday morning at 2:50, I saw several people walking up Washington Avenue with no apparent reason for being there. I watched them duck into my neighbor’s driveway and then move on. I didn’t call the police.

After the fact, I asked our police chief for guidance on when to call. He said that we should call the police “when anything appears remotely suspicious.” In other words: If you see something, say something.

I now realize that’s a lot more than a slogan. As Chief Foti Koskinas noted, “We have been making a lot of arrests. But there are a lot more people out there.”

Safety and community security is everyone’s responsibility. I regret not calling. Had I called, maybe these people who seek to do us harm would have been apprehended. I won’t make that mistake again.

Don’t hesitate. Call — and help the police protect and serve us.

NOTE: Diligent police work solved a recent crime spree — 6 residential burglaries, 14 motor vehicle break-ins, 2 stolen cars and numerous larcenies —  on Sandhopper Trail, Crystal Circle, Gault Avenue, Oak Ridge Park, Keyser Road, Evergreen Avenue, Gorham Avenue and Brooklawn Drive. Investigators recovered plenty of stolen property, including 2 Audis, 1 Mercedes and 1 Chevrolet, computers, a bicycle and a purse.

In every case, homes and vehicles were left unlocked. Police urge residents to lock homes, garages and vehicles every night; remove valuables from vehicles, and turn on exterior lights and security systems. 

Westporters Enable Car Thieves

The Westport Police Department wants to make life hard for car thieves.

Unfortunately, too many residents make it too easy. 

The WPD says:

Early this morning, 2 vehicles were stolen from the Hillspoint Road area. Two others were broken into. Credit cards stolen from one vehicle were later used in Stratford.

All vehicles were believed to have been unlocked, with keys left inside the vehicles.

Another vehicle was stolen over the weekend. It was also unsecured, with the keys left inside. All incidents are being investigated by the detective bureau.

Please steal my car!

Despite multiple warnings over the last few years, residents continue to leave valuables and keys in their unlocked vehicles. As long as residents do not heed these warnings, thieves will continue to target our area.

We ask everyone to remove valuables from their vehicles, take their keys with them, and lock their car doors every time — whether holiday shopping downtown, parked at the gym, at the dog park or in their own driveways.

Residents are urged to participate in the “9 PM Routine.” This national public service campaign is a simple, effective way to prevent theft. It includes removing valuables from vehicles, locking car doors and bringing keys inside.

Take a few extra moments during your nightly routine to make sure the doors to your home are locked, your garage doors are secure, and exterior lights are turned on.

Help us prevent burglaries and theft in our community, and protect your home and property. For more information on the 9 PM Routine, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

Kids Dodge Cops

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.

This group of dodgeball players was going for the win — and the Best Costume award. (Photo/Lily Williams)

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 3 years ago, age 49.

Police chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) joined in the fun. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Twenty-four teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

Staples’ popular resource officer Ed Wooldridge (far left) also joined a team. (Photo/Lily Williams)

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

Lefty Pendarakis (center) gathers his team (including a police officer, right) for pre-game strategy. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Hey, girls play dodgeball too! (Photo/Lily Williams)

It wasn’t easy dodging these cops. But it sure was fun. (Photo/Westport Police Department)

Photo Challenge #200

Security cameras have become so ubiquitous, we don’t even notice them.

So it’s not surprising that last week’s Photo Challenge — showing more than half a dozen cameras on top of a building — drew guesses of spots all around town.

The train station? Levitt Pavilion? Police station? Town Hall? No, no, no and no.

The cameras in question (click here to see) are located atop Joey’s by the Shore — the Compo beach concession stand. Andrew Colabella and Michael Calise — longtime and constant beachgoers — were the first 2 readers with the right answer.

But why would a beach restaurant need security cameras?

Andrew explained:

In the summer of 2016 there was a serious spike in vandalism, break-ins, driving on the beach, and illicit and suspicious activity. Lifeguard chairs were dragged into the water, Joey’s was broken into, and money was removed/stolen/missing from the gate.

In the past before that, boats had been burglarized and the lifeguard shack was broken into.

These cameras — along with many others strategically placed in and around the beach — record and are viewed by town employees in the Parks & Rec and Police Departments. The technological ability of these cameras is astonishing.

Since then, illegal activities have dropped dramatically.

So be cool out there. Big Brother — or at least the town — is watching.

Here is this week’s Photo Challenge:

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

If you know where in Westport you’d see this hand-sprayed “No Parking” sign, click “Comments” below.

And if you know why someone painted it there — in a seemingly legit parking spot — we’d like to know too!