Tag Archives: Westport Police Department

“Where Are Your Papers?” A Westporter Reacts

Alert “06880” reader Robert Birge is a marketing professional, investor and entrepreneur. He’s lived in Westport “almost 9 years, non-contiguously.” His activities include “regular consumption of food at our fine restaurants, chasing around 4 children, and trying to drive courteously.”

Last week, his kids’ nanny told him a disturbing story. Robert explains:

Someone she identified as a police officer asked her for her “papers” while waiting at the Westport train station. It happens that she is Latina. It also happens that she is a citizen of these United States of America.

Regrettably, we likely won’t learn who perpetrated this indignity. After a thorough investigation, Westport Chief of Police Foti Koskinas and Deputy Chief Vincent Penna strongly believe that whoever harassed our nanny is not a Westport police officer.

I’m not entirely convinced. However, I believe their view is reasonable, and I respect they have a different vantage point. I can only say it’s unclear who stopped her, and that there are sound reasons to doubt it was a Westport officer.

I find the details uninteresting now. That she suffered this indignity saddens me. Our nanny is a wonderful person. She cares for our 3 young boys as if they were her own. She’s exceedingly competent and industrious, and she always wears a smile. She’s the proud mother of two UConn graduates. Our community is fortunate to count her as a member.

Immigrants, legal and likely illegal, provide significant support to our rarefied town. While our community has time to wage fiery debates over high school essays on white privilege and unearned advantages, hundreds of immigrants make their way to Westport every morning to care for our children, clean our homes, tend our lavish gardens, and help build our beautiful houses. Westport would not be Westport without them. Any view to the contrary is patently false.

I grew up in New Mexico and Colorado. I learned at a young age to treasure the contributions and culture of the Hispanic community, along with every other group that has come to this country and helped make it great.

I’m also a vocal “member” of #TheResistance. I realize not everyone in Westport shares my views, but the voting patterns and my impressions of the typical Westport resident lead me to believe I’m among predominantly like-minded people. Westport is not Maricopa County, Arizona.

Two immediate family members have spent years in the federal criminal justice system. I’m confident this incident would not pass standards for probable cause or equal treatment.

My primary question after hearing this story was: “Is it possible this has spilled over into Westport?” I’m happy to share that Chief Koskinas and Deputy Chief Penna’s actions and words answered that question for me with an unequivocal NO! I also commend them for their responsiveness to a community concern.

I’m told the investigation has not implicated one of our officers, the MTA police or the Amtrak police. That leaves the possibility that a layperson harassed our nanny. I find this possibility more disturbing. I’d rather think that one jerk had a bad day and acted poorly, especially knowing the values coming from Chief Koskinas. If it happens again, I hope the community reports it. I’m confident our police department’s leaders would pursue the culprit vigorously.

I also believe it’s important to discuss a few comments I’ve received asserting that I should have allowed the police to investigate the incident before reporting it on social media. This is a choice we’re all granted as part of our right to speak freely. I respect that others would choose differently, but I stand by my choice. I know my nanny, and I know what she told me.

She was harassed by some racist in my town. I was and remain furious. I also believe the current climate necessitates vigilance toward every incursion on our civil liberties no matter how benign. Further, where should citizens or the press draw that line? If I had recorded a video like the Rodney King incident, should I have withheld the video from the public until a fair trial had been completed? I don’t think so.

Public discourse of wrongdoing and due process under the law are different matters. For example, anyone arrested in Westport will find their name, alleged crime and full color mugshot on Facebook right away. Even if you’re later fully exonerated, the damage done to your reputation would be hard to reverse. While the media surely enjoys the US Attorney’s penchant for high profile perp walks, I feel differently about the Westport police department employing public shaming in our small town. The point is that it’s a choice we all have a right to make.

It’s important to me to close this post with an expression of gratitude toward our police. Like most things in Westport, I believe we’re fortunate when it comes to our police. I’ve always found them to be efficient, extremely present, and friendly. I believe they keep my family safe. My wife Melissa and I intend to raise our children with the same respect for officers of the law that we have, because their position deserves that respect.

Cops And Parkers

As sure as I post photos of some of the most ridiculous, self-centered, entitled parking scenes in Westport — like Monday’s jaw-dropping Trader Joe’s spectacle — readers respond with 2 comments:

  • Someone should have called the cops!
  • You’ve got their license plate right there! Send this photo to the police!

An alert “06880” reader — who asked for anonymity — decided to find out what the cops think of all this.

Deputy chief Vincent J. Penna quickly responded.

He explained that in this case, Trader Joe’s is a private lot. Though the police have some power to enforce motor vehicle laws there — like DUI, reckless operation and evading responsibility — parking enforcement is limited to fire lane and handicap space violations.

“Parking in a private lot is generally enforced by the property owner,” Penna says.

As for sending a photo: Sure, any citizen can provide a sworn statement detailing the infraction to the police. They’ll issue a ticket based on that statement.

However, if the driver pleads not guilty, then the officer — and the citizen — would both be subpoenaed to court.

Oh, yeah: The identity of the person making the complaint — and that person’s address — are public record.

“This tends to deter most people,” Penna notes.

Meanwhile, keep those photos comin’. We may not get any of these very entitled d-bags arrested.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little public shame.

Monday’s infamous Trader Joe’s photo. The license plate is clearly visible.

Rash Of Stolen Vehicles Follows Rash Of People Leaving Keys In Vehicles

  • 12/02/16: “He also stated his daughter left the vehicle unlocked with the key in the console.”
  • 12/14/16: “The vehicle had been parked on the left side of the driveway with no other vehicles in front of it or behind it. The vehicle was unlocked and the keys were left either on the driver-side floor or the middle console.”
  • 12/25/16: “At approximately 0730 hours, the victim reported someone just attempted to steal his vehicle after he left it running in driveway.”
  • 12/30/16: “Victim stated he always leaves his keys in the vehicle and always leaves the vehicle unlocked.”
  • 12/30/16: “The key fob for the vehicle was also in the center console and the vehicle was unlocked.”
  • 01/06/17: “Responded on a report of a stolen car.  Upon arrival I spoke with the owner who stated that he parked the car around 1845 hours on 1/5/17.  The vehicle was unlocked and the keys were inside.”
  • 01/09/17: “Victim said he went to sleep around 2300 hours and did not hear anything suspicious during the night. Victim said his key was left in his center console and his vehicle must have been unlocked.”
  • 01/09/17: “Doors were unlocked and the key was left in the vehicle.”

stolen-carYou get the point?

If not, read on:

Over the past 2 months, 9 vehicles have been stolen in Westport.

Each time, the doors were unlocked, and the keys were left inside.

Westport Police have also responded recently to a number of vehicle break-ins, with thefts of items inside. In all those cases too, the doors were unlocked overnight.

The Police Department reminds Westporters: Lock your car, and bring your keys inside. Take valuables — cash, purses, wallets, electronics, etc. — out each night.

Westport PoliceThe cops add: “It is also good practice to keep outside lights on and motion lights activated. Please notify the Police Department if it appears your vehicle was entered or you observe anything suspicious in your neighborhood.”

The good news: In all recent cases, the stolen vehicles were recovered.

The bad news:  The time the police spend tracking down the car thieves could be spent in much better ways.

Like catching all those entitled drivers whose photos appear on “06880.”

Cops Collect Toys For Tots

As the holiday season roars into overdrive, we’re (happily) overwhelmed with ways to help the less fortunate. All across town, organizations do their part to bring a little joy to those who truly need it.

“06880” can’t mention all of them. But if you’re looking for one particularly worthy cause, here it is.

The Westport Police local union and Police Benevolent Association are holding their annual toy drive. Each year, they distribute thousands of gifts to children who otherwise would have none, in Fairfield County and beyond. It runs through December 16.

Collection boxes for new, unwrapped toys are set up at several locations:

  • Police headquarters, 50 Jesup Road, 24 hours a day.
  • Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • ASF Sports & Outdoors, 1560 Post Road East, store hours.
  • Whole Foods, 399 Post Road West, store hours.
  • Renato’s Jewelers, 1765 Post Road East, store hours.

In addition, police officers will be in the ASF parking lot the next 2 weekends (December 10, 11, 17, 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to accept toys and cash donations.

And to personally thank you for your generosity.

Westport Police

 

Tina’s Cat

Following the sad death of Tina Wessel — the homeless woman well known by nearly every Westporter — many “06880” commenters expressed concern for her beloved cat.

Third selectman Helen Garten reports that — thanks to great work by the Westport Police Department and Animal Control — the cat was found, and is safe.

Schulhof Animal Hospital is temporarily boarding Tina’s pet.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates is soliciting donations for the cat’s medical examination and care. President Julie Loparo writes:

WASA thanks the Westport Police Department, particularly Chief Foti Koskinas; Animal Control officer Gina Gambino; Dorrie Harris, co-founder of TAILS; the staff of the Senior Center, particularly Tom Saviano, and the staff of Schulhof Animal Hospital for working together to humanely “trap” and provide care for Tina Wessel’s cat.

Westport Animal Shelter Advocates

The cat is calmly waiting in his/her crate for an exam. It is wonderful to live in a town with the compassion to want to do right by one of its long-term residents. This joint effort ensures that Ms. Wessel’s cat won’t be left to fend for itself.

WASA, with the kind assistance of the Schulhof staff, will oversee the cat’s care. When the time comes, it will secure a home for Ms. Wessel’s friend and furry family member.

If you would like to assist WASA with this effort, please visit www.westportwasa.org and click “Donate.” Please note on the form that you are donating in memory of “Tina’s cat.”  WASA is a 501c3 organization.

Many Westporters want to do something to honor Tina’s memory. This is one way to help.

tina-wessen-cat

Tina’s cat. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)

Kids Dodge Cops At Staples

Across America, tensions are high between police and the communities they serve.

In Westport, cops and teenagers squared off tonight.

It was all in good fun — and for a good cause.

Westport Youth Commission member Colin Corneck sports a "Collaborative" t-shirt.

Westport Youth Commission member Colin Corneck sports a “Police and Youth Collaborative” t-shirt.

Staples’ Teen Awareness Group, Youth Commission, PAL and Westport Police Department sponsored the 5th annual Dodge-a-Cop tournament, in the high school fieldhouse.

A few hundred kids and a few dozen cops played dodgeball against — and with — each other. There had to be at least 1 officer on each team.

Cops and kids listen to instructions, before the massive tournament began.

Cops and kids listen to instructions, before the massive tournament began.

It was a great, bonding event. The money raised — from entry fees and food sales — went to the Chris Lemone Fund, in honor of the Staples outreach counselor who died last year.

It was a night to show off Westport’s finest.

And by that I mean: everyone who was there.

Police chief Foti Koskinas is flanked by dodgeball players Det. Sgt. Sereneti Dobson and Lt. Jillian Cabara. The referee (front) is Det. Sharon Russo.

Police chief Foti Koskinas is flanked by dodgeball players Det. Sgt. Sereneti Dobson and Lt. Jillian Cabara. The referee (front) is Det. Sharon Russo.

Stephen Rowland, Reid Rizack, Spencer Daniels and Max Zimmerman get ready to rumble.

Stephen Rowland, Reid Rizack, Spencer Daniels and Max Zimmerman get ready to rumble.

Dodgeball is not just for guys and cops!

Dodgeball is not just for guys and cops!

Police officers and everyone else: Watch out for Kenny Brill!

Police officers and everyone else: Watch out for Kenny Brill!

Everyone wants to know who's in the lead.

Youth Commission and TAG members keep score.

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Follow The Cops!

Back in the day, you needed a scanner to keep up with police activity.

Now all you need is a cellphone.

The Westport Police Department has created 3 social media accounts. They’ll include arrest reports, road closures, hazardous conditions, upcoming events and press releases.

You can like and follow the cops on

Kim Kardashian: Eat your heart out!

Police - Town of Wp home page

UPDATE: Police Detain Burglary Suspect

A break may have come in the spate of break-ins in Westport homes.

Minutes ago, the Westport Police announced that a suspect has been identified in connection with recent burglaries. That person is in custody for crimes committed in nearby towns, and has confessed to Westport burglaries.

Arrest warrants are pending, and an investigation is ongoing. Westport detectives are working with area departments that have experienced similar incidents.

Meanwhile, police advise residents that Greens Farms and the Easton Road sections of town have experienced burglaries, as well as reports of suspicious people knocking on doors, telling fabricated stories about an internet posting or broken-down vehicle. This is believed to be a tactic for suspects to identify unoccupied residences.

Police ask Westporters to call 203-341-6080 with reports of suspicious activity, or information about recent incidents.

Westport Police

 

Railroad Parking: Less Is More

The other day, an alert “06880” reader asked if the recent renovation of the train station’s westbound parking lot (#1) resulted in the loss of any spaces. (He was pretty sure it did.)

I did not know the answer. But I knew who would.

Foti Koskinas — who as Westport’s police chief is also responsible for railroad parking — responded (as usual) almost immediately.

He said: Yes. The original plan would have meant 6 fewer spaces. When another exit was added, an additional 2 were lost.

During the project however, realignment of spaces and crosswalks added 2 back. So the 1st number stands: There are now 6 fewer spaces than before.

The reason for the loss, Foti noted, is that the old lot was non-conforming to current regulations. Spaces were too narrow, resulting in many dented doors.

Pre-renovation: an aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

Pre-renovation: an aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

But Foti added lots (ho ho) more information. And it’s all good.

Throughout the summer, the Police Department examined every parking area. New spaces will appear, sometime before the holidays:

  • 12-14 additional parking spots in Lot #2 (the smaller westbound lot, just up the hill from Lot #1 and Luciano Park)
  • 8 new spots on Park Street (coming down the slight hill from Exit 17, opposite the old Blu Parrot/Jasmine/Arrow restaurant)
  • 15-17 more spots on one side of Franklin Street, under I-95
  • 54-60 additional spots in Lot #7, off Franklin Street (due to leases the town took over from the state — not easy, but they got it done!).

But wait! There’s more!

The department has contacted the next 150 commuters on the wait list. They’re in the process of getting their permits.

And more permits may come, once the projects in the bullet list above are completed.

Now, if only Metro-North could respond as quickly and efficiently as the Westport Police…

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.

Kids, Cops Join Forces

Across America, police departments and the communities they serve are examining their relationships.

For several years, Westport cops and teenagers have worked together, playing dodgeball and meeting informally.

Now we’re kicking it up a notch.

The Westport Police and Department of Human Services are teaming up in a Police-Youth Collaborative. Students will meet with officers throughout the year, planning fun events and doing community service projects in town.

The idea is to get 15-20 teens, and 5-7 officers who don’t regularly interact with youth, to build stronger, healthier relationships, develop mutual respect, and create a better community.

Then deputy, now chief Foti Koskinas (left) played on this winning Dodge-a-Cop dodgeball team last fall.

Then deputy, now chief Foti Koskinas (left) played on this winning Dodge-a-Cop dodgeball team last fall.

Two activities are already scheduled for this month: a high ropes course (Sunday, October 9 at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport) and a distracted driving event at Staples (Saturday, October 22),

Sergeant Sereniti Dobson and Human Services’ youth services program director Kevin Godburn secured a state Office of Policy and Management grant of nearly $10,000. It pays for some police overtime and team-building exercises.

“Kids can be catalysts. They can bring change to their peers,” Godburn explains. “Kids need to understand cops more, and police officers can understand where Westport kids are coming from.”

Everyone is excited, Godburn adds. “There’s always a positive response when kids and cops work, play and interact together. Both sides really do want to get to know the other.”