Each week, the Westport Police Department writes tickets for driving while using cell phones.
It’s against the law. Distracted driving can cost you from $150 to $1,000.
To help you avoid those fines, the WPD has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administraiton’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” effort. Throughout August, the campaign will help enforcement efforts to catch distracted, texting drivers.
The WPD says: Pull off the road safely to text. Or let your passenger text. And don’t forget to activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature. Or just put your phone in your trunk, glove box or back seat!
The pandemic can’t keep David Bibbey down. Or in the studio.
The Westport Library media studio producer brought his Van Raam trike to down, and rode around. Guided by Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell, he set out to discover how the town is reopening.
Click here for interviews with 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker, Westport Downtown Merchants Association head Randy Herbertson, artists Miggs and Trace Burroughs, and folks at Savannah Bee Company, Fleet Feet, Walrus Alley and New England Hemp Farm.
And finally … Hurricane Hanna hit the southern Gulf Coast this weekend. The area was already reeling from the coronavirus. Here’s to all our friends in that big, wonderful state.
As the COVID-19 quarantines and associated restrictions have gradually eased in Connecticut, you may have noticed an increase in daily vehicular traffic throughout Fairfield County.
Unfortunately, traffic is not all that seems to be on the rise. What has been the most striking to the Westport Police Department is a marked increase in property crimes.
Comparing an approximately 40-day period from late May to early July in 2019 and 2020, statistics indicate an upward trend.
Within this period in 2019, the department investigated 3 stolen motor vehicle complaints. In 2020 we have investigated a total of 10 within the same time period, while an 11th stolen vehicle from another jurisdiction was recovered here.
In every case, the stolen vehicle was left unlocked with keys inside overnight. Some of these vehicles were recovered in other jurisdictions, but many remain unaccounted for.
Almost always closely tied to motor vehicle thefts are burglaries of parked and unoccupied vehicles in driveways.
In the specified time frame in 2019, the department handled 5 incidents of motor vehicles being entered/burglarized. In 2020 we handled 11 of these types of incidents in that same time frame.
In all recent cases, the vehicles were left unlocked. In multiple cases, wallets containing credit cards were stolen and subsequently used to make purchases. The actual numbers of these types of incidents are assumed to be higher than as reported, as many residents do not notify police in situations where vehicles were entered but nothing of any significant value appears to have been taken.
In this sample period in 2019, the department investigated 3 burglary complaints (2 commercial, 1 residentail). In this same stretch of time in 2020 we have investigated 6 residential burglaries, 4 of which included forced entry. The most brazen was perpetrated in the overnight hours while the home was occupied and the residents asleep. Entry was gained through an unlocked door.
Footage from a Nest camera last weekend shows a burglar casing out an an Old Hill area home.
In 2019, the department responded to 1 shoplifting incident within this timeframe. In the same period in 2020, we have responded to 8 such complaints.
Please let this data serve as a stark reminder that property crimes and theft seem to be trending upward in Westport. Again, this is a small sample in time of slightly more than a month, but it merits careful attention.
Measures are being taken by the department to stop or slow this trend. Preventative measures such as locking doors, arming alarms and securing valuables, coupled with the vigilance of our officers, is the key to safeguarding our neighborhoods.
If you observe suspicious activity in your neighborhood, please don’t delay in contacting us. Maintaining public safety and security is only possible through a continued partnership with the residents we proudly serve.
No one knows your neighborhood better than you do. The information and feedback provided by our community is vital to our crime prevention efforts and overall effectiveness as a law enforcement agency.
Westport’s police force, fire department and EMTs provide high service with “utmost professionalism, transparency and accountability,” town officials say.
However, today’s climate “demands a reassessment of goals, an even higher degree of commitment, and a clear way to incorporate and engage” the public.
So today, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced a new Civilian Review Panel. Members will work closely with the Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments to “assist in the hiring process of new employees, and review and provide feedback in the civilian complaint process.”
Marpe appointed Selectwomen Jennifer Tooker and Melissa Kane, along with TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, to the CRP.
Though the departments heads retain responsibility for hiring and disciplinary measures, the CRP will work collaboratively and offer feedback.
Foti Koskinas says that when he became Police Chief, his goal was
to continue to build on the foundation of public trust carefully fostered between this department and our residents. Now, at a time when police departments across the country are looking introspectively at ways to better serve our communities, I believe that this is an important step in continuing to maintain complete transparency, in preserving public trust and in reassuring our residents that effective policing is truly a collaborative effort.
Fire Chief Rob Yost adds:
The Westport Fire Department continues to strive to diversify in its hiring of recruit firefighters and, to that end, welcomes the assistance from the CRP. I would also welcome their assistance with any questions of conduct or complaints of fire personnel to insure the continued high level of public trust and support of the Fire Department
Town officials report that in Phase 1 of reopening, over 50% of retail establishments are open. In addition, more than 20 restaurants offer outdoor dining. NOTE: Hair salons and barber shops are open by appointment only; walk-ins are not allowed.
Many offices are open too (with a strong emphasis on working from home if possible).
Some businesses and offices have decided it is not yet time to reopen. Call ahead, to determine if a certain establishment or office is operating.
Second Selectwoman Jen Tooker praises non-profit Social Venture Partners, which in a joint venture with the town provided approximately 30 local businesses with non-cost advisory services on topics like financial analysis, marketing and human resources.
In other business news, parking spaces will be cordoned off for at least 30 days on Main Street, from the Post Road to Elm Street, to provide increased pedestrian access.
Parking spaces on Main Street will be cordoned off, to provide more room for pedestrians during social distancing restrictions. (Photos/Chip Stephens)
The Westport Police Department issued this statement, about protests following the death of George Floyd:
“Over the last several days, the town of Westport has been the site of demonstrations in response to recent tragic events in our country. The men and women of this department are sincerely grateful that to date these have been peaceful and constructive gatherings. To the public we serve, we offer a sincere thank you for your continued engagement in your community and your commitment to making our world a better place for us all. In that goal, we have and will always continue to proudly stand with you.
“Sadly, this has not been the case throughout this country, where violent acts and destruction instead has become on all too common sight in many of our neighborhoods. The Westport Police Department will always support, and work diligently to protect, the First Amendment rights of our citizens and visitors alike. As we anticipate additional future demonstrations to happen here in and our neighboring communities, we ask that you please do your part to help us ensure the safety and voice of all those in attendance. There is no greater instrument of peace than a continued dialogue, do not let your message be lost in violence.”
After examining detailed regulations for summer camps and summer school programs, the Westport Public Schools has decided it is untenable to offer in-person programs this year.
“We are very disappointed to be in this position, and understand how disappointed some parents and students might be as well,” says interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey. “However, we are committed to doing our best to offer excellent alternative programming through a distance learning format.”
Continuing Education will provide many programs online, including all high school courses being offered for credit. Click here for details.
Westport Library director Bill Harmer says:
“The senseless murder of George Floyd once again highlights the racial injustices that continue to plague us in cities and towns across the nation.
“The core mission of the public library is to create a nation of informed and active citizens. Like a compass, we point the way toward a better society that is founded in knowledge and demonstrates respect for diverse peoples and views. By fulfilling this responsibility, we provide a fundamental opportunity for each of us to meaningfully contribute to the success of our democracy.
“While much of our political discourse is seemingly fractious, the public library stands firm as a beacon to inspire citizens to seek common ground in order to help meet the challenges of our time. In this way, libraries function as an essential equalizer in our society.
“In these unprecedented times, we are asking that you join us in fortifying our mission by standing together to shape and determine who we are and what we will become. By supporting and promoting inclusion and equity, we will be playing an active role in creating a better future for all Americans.
“Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay strong.
The Senior Center’s 49 summer classes — including art, exercise and language, along with discussion and support groups — will all be offered via Zoom. For a list of classes, click here; then scroll down.
Westport residents age 60 and older can begin registering this Monday (June 8), starting at 8:30 a.m. You can call 203-341-5099, or mail in a registration form (available here; scroll to the end) with payment to WCSA, 21 Imperial Avenue, Westport.
Out-of-town residents 60 and older can begin registering on Monday, June 15.
Questions? Call 203-341-5099.
Wildlife has no idea there’s a pandemic. Injured and orphaned animals still need help.
Peter Reid — who is both Westport’s assistant animal control officer and Wildlife in Crisis director — yesterday rescued 3 orphaned fawns.
Their mother was killed on the Post Road, near Fire Department headquarters. All 3 are now being cared for by Wildlife in Crisis staff. They will be rehabilitated and released at the appropriate age.
According to Westport Animal Shelter Advocates, it costs $800 to $1,000 to care for each fawn. Click here to help.
Peter Reid and injured fawn.
And finally … Essie Jenkins, with”The 1919 Influenza Blues”:
On Sunday, Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas delivered a brief but passionate speech.
Addressing a few hundred people on Jesup Green — a local response to the murder, a few days earlier, of George Floyd — Koskinas read a statement condemning the Minneapolis police officers.
Then he went further. He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.
It was a defining moment, and drew sustained applause. But many in the crowd were not surprised. They were Westporters. They know their chief is honest, straightforward, a man of integrity and conscience.
The crowd the next day was less familiar with Koskinas.
Unlike Sunday’s protest, Monday’s took the Westport Police by surprise. But — led by Koskinas — they were ready. They acted professionally, providing an escort across the Post Road bridge, and watching quietly as several dozen massed in front of the police station.
Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas helps the group cross Jesup Road.
Then — surrounded by the crowd — Koskinas spoke.
He talked of his personal disappointment in his law enforcement colleagues in Minnesota. “I marched with you,” the chief said. “This was not a publicity stunt.”
Some people jeered.
“I’m a first-generation immigrant. I came here not knowing a word of English,” Koskinas — who came to Long Lots School in 7th grade from Greece — said. “I was a minority.”
Chief Foti Koskinas with protesters, on Monday. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
The chief said he was devastated “by what happened in Minneapolis — by that officer, and 3 others who did not act.”
Koskinas — who at one time wanted to be a lawyer, but turned to law enforcement after taking a criminology course in college — added that he is even more devastated when the public is afraid of the police.
Someone interrupted him again. He continued, talking about systemic issues in American society. Koskinas cited our health system too. “Black people don’t get the same type of care” as white people,” he said.
This time, no one jeered or interrupted. Instead, the entire crowd cheered.
There are many ways to lead. Chief Foti Koskinas’ does so with both words and deeds.
In a week when some police departments are under scrutiny, our chief is our Unsung Hero.
(Hat tip for video and inspiration: Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
Rumors swirled yesterday morning on social media: An Antifa-led protest was headed to Westport.
Several dozen protesters did gather at Jesup Green. Assisted by Westport police, they marched across the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge to Norwalk, then returned. They ended up — chanting “Black lives matter!” — at the police station on Jesup Road, where Chief Foti Koskinas spoke movingly to them of his experiences as a first-generation America.
But last night — out of caution, fear or both — at least 2 downtown businesses boarded their windows.
Tiffany on the Post Road …
… and the Sunglass Hut on Main Street. (Photos/Chip Stephens)
Jesup Green — Westport’s historic site for anti-war, gun violence and other protests — drew several hundred people of all ages to another, this afternoon.
Organized in less than 48 hours following the national reaction to the death of George Floyd, it was as passionate as any in the past. But — coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — it also marked the first large gathering here since mid-March. Masks were mandatory. Speeches were short.
But the message was powerful.
Organizer Darcy Hicks noted “the tension between wanting to stay home and keep the community safe, and the bubbling need to do something.”
RTM member Andrew Colabella and civic activist Darcy Hicks.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas read yesterday’s statement from his department condemning Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis officers.
Then he went further.
Police Chief Foti Koskinas (far right) with, from left, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. The town’s other 2 selectman were there too.
He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.
“I am never embarrassed, and always proud, to wear this uniform,” Koskinas said. “But Mr. Floyd’s death was devastating to this department.”
He then introduced Harold Bailey, TEAM Westport chair. The head of the town’s multicultural committee said that for every George Floyd, there are “thousands of other victims, in the dark and out of sight.” Indifference, he said, is just another way of sanctioning such acts.
Bailey added that TEAM Westport is partnering with the police, Westport Library, Interfaith Clergy Association and schools, on community forums and projects.
Hicks spoke last. “As a white, privileged person, I am complicit in the death of George Floyd and others,” she said.
“I have not always been engaged in fighting racism and economic inequality.” It is not enough to be “not a racist,” she said. “People have to do things.”
The protest ended with a long moment of silence: 4 minutes, 23 seconds. But, Hicks noted, that was only half the amount of time George Floyd’s neck was pinned underneath a police officer’s knee.
Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement today:
We certainly can be counted among the many municipal and law enforcement leaders who were horrified and deeply disappointed by the recent tragedy in Minneapolis.
The Westport Police Department, like so many others across our country, has worked diligently to build relationships and trust within our communities; a trust which we and our national partners in law enforcement recognize must be incrementally earned and always carefully maintained. Fostering this trust among our community through a steadfast dedication to public service continues to be our top priority.
During difficult times such as these, it is important to reaffirm that the Westport Police Department remains resolutely committed to pursuing the goals of its mission statement through the fair and equitable treatment of all of those we encounter.
Marpe noted: “Westport’s commitment to fairness, equality and social justice is stronger than ever, and is reflected daily in the actions of our Police Department, as well as in all town departments and activities.”
Can drones help Westport flatten the coronavirus curve? Westport Police want to find out.
Chief Foti Koskinas and Captain Ryan Paulsson, head of the department’s drone program, are testing new technology, through a partnership with drone company Draganfly.
It could be used in areas where large, unsafe gatherings might occur, such as Compo Beach and Longshore. If crowds are gathered, it could make an announcement asking people to practice physical distancing, or leave.
It does not use facial recognition technology, and would not be used over private property.
Draganfly says that its software can also scan body temperature, heart and respiration rates, coughs and blood pressure. The Canadian company says the drone can detect infectious conditions from 190 feet.
Koskinas notes that such data — if it is reliable — would probably be used by health officials, not the police.
A Draganfly drone
The department has been using drones for several years already. Purposes include missing persons, motor vehicle accidents, and assisting the Fire Department.
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