Year in Review / Teens behaving badly, a new chief and a controversial traffic study highlight year
DARIEN — Darien police saw a number of changes in 2017: a new police chief, a new K-9 and several new officers. They also faced new scrutiny under a traffic study that alleged they pull over a high number of minorities.
However, the number of car break-ins remained a concern in town, leading police to urge residents time and time again to lock their vehicles.
Here are some of Darien’s top crime and police stories of 2017.
The Darien-New Canaan rivalry turns violent
A night of Snapchat and trash talk led to three Darien teens being arrested after they, along with their classmates, stormed a New Canaan home where a Darien High School football player allegedly punched a New Canaan teen.
Brian Minicus, Jack Joyce and a 17-year-old Darien teen were arrested in connection with the Nov. 6 incident. All three teens turned themselves in on the eve of the Turkey Bowl, leading to Minicus and Joyce, Darien’s wide receiver/defensive back and Joyce, the team’s quarterback, to sit out the legendary Thanksgiving game.
According to police, Joyce had been trash talking with a New Canaan teen over Snapchat over the course of an evening leading up to him, Minicus and other Darien teens showing up at the New Canaan home where the victim was hanging out. Minicus allegedly beat the victim while another teen held the New Canaan teen down while Joyce yelled at another girl.
Minicus was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree unlawful restraint and Joyce was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer after he allegedly lied about texting the victim and what he did in the basement. A third 17-year-old was charged with conspiracy to commit third-degree assault and second-degree unlawful restraint.
Both Minicus and Joyce applied for accelerated rehab programs. They will appear in court in January to find out if their applications were approved.
Police force flagged
for traffic data
Central Connecticut State University released a report flagging Darien for pulling over a high number of drivers who are minorities.
The Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project looked at department-submitted data from October 2015 to September 2016 showed nearly a third of traffic stops in town involved minority drivers although seven percent of the driving-age population in Darien is minorities. A further examination of the data showed 97 percent of Hispanics drivers stopped were not residents.
Chief of Police Ray Osborne said he’s aware of the study and will be participating in follow-up analysis. However, he said he was concerned about the report’s methodology, particularly how they determined the town’s estimated driving population. A professor at CCSU also pointed out problems with the estimated driving population.
Town formed juvenile review board
In an effort to improve the way the town handles minor offenses, particularly underage drinking, the town established its first juvenile review board.
The board will allow teens charged with first-time offenses an effective punishment without getting them involved in the legal session. Charged teens would have the option to join a diversionary program after pleading their case in front a review board made up of representatives from community agencies.
Suggested repercussions would be tailored to the individual and include solutions like substance abuse counseling and family therapy. Should the teen successfully complete the program, they would have all charges dropped.
Department welcomes new staff, but waves goodbye to K-9
Darien welcomed a new chief, K-9s and their 50th officer in 2017. In February, Ray Osborne was named chief following the retirement of former chief Duane Lovello. Osborne joined the department in 1983 from Easton and had been promoted to captain last July.
In April, the department promoted three officers and hired three more from other departments. Around the same time, the department had to retire its new K-9, Grizzly, after the dog was found to have an inoperable tumor. Grizzly passed away shortly after his retirement and was replaced by K-9 Kenny.
In December, the department swore in its 50th officer, Eric Holder, who comes from Bridgeport. They’re looking to hire another officer in 2018 to bring the staff up to full force.
Unlocked cars cause problems for residents
Police spent a good portion of 2017 urging residents to lock their cars after cars continued to be entered and stolen, often after being left unlocked overnight.
The department said they’ve upped their patrol efforts and are employing new tactics to catch the culprits, but continue to ask Darien drivers to remember to lock their vehicles. They also ask residents not to leave their valuables in their cars as laptops, wallets and purses all make for targets for thieves.
In February, police arrested two Stamford teens after a string of 20 car burglaries and two stolen cars. The teens told police Darien was known as a place to get money from unlocked vehicles.