On Wednesday morning Byram residents in the area of Mead Ave and Byram Shore Rd were surprised to witness a police pursuit of a Honda with New York plates.
“He was going 80-90 MPH down River Ave. Every lap he had more and more cops behind him,” a resident wrote on Facebook.
A resident of Mead Ave reported a car speeding by “doing about 90 MPH” around 8:15am.
Greenwich Police Dept Lt Mark Zuccerella said New York authorities had reported a File 1, radio code for stolen vehicle, saying that a car was traveling into Connecticut via the Mill Street Bridge in Byram.
A Greenwich Police patrol officer spotted the car, which was traveling at a high rate of speed as it headed into residential streets off Mill Street.
While Greenwich Police dispatch attempted to get further details from New York authorities on what crime might have been committed, the Greenwich patrol car was joined by two supervisors and one or two other patrol cars who attempted to corral the stolen car.
“It was a textbook pursuit,” he said of the attempt to corral the stolen car. “He was doing laps because each time he tried to get on the main road, he saw a police car. We were trying to keep him away from the public while we were trying to ascertain whether it was more than a property crime.”
Police can only pursue a vehicle if a crime of violence is involved, rather than a property crime.
According to Zuccerella, the rules on police pursuits were new in 2019, and fall under Title 14 (Uniform Statewide Pursuit Policy).
“Title 14 what tells us what we’re allowed to do, as well as what we have to do,” he said, adding that despite all the recent car thefts in Connecticut, police are limited in what they can do.
“This call came in from New York authorities that a ‘File 1’ was traveling in via the Mill Street bridge into Byram. The officer saw it immediately and tried to stop it. The patrol car was not speeding. The officer was giving out his speed as he went along, saying he was going 30mpm,” Zuccerella said, adding the driver of the stolen car might have been going fast.
“We were trying to reach out to the New York authorities for details,” he added. “For example, we wanted to know, was it a car jacking or just a stolen car? Or was it involved in a robbery or something else?”
Unfortunately, Zuccerella said the dispatcher was unable to get information on whether a violent crime was involved, and the pursuit was deemed no longer safe, so the officers were forced to break off the pursuit.
“The guy went through a stop sign and was driving fast and erratically, and we didn’t want to put the public at risk,” Zuccerella said.
Greenwich residents have been surprised to learn of the rules governing police pursuits of stolen cars.
“We are no longer allowed to pursue (a vehicle) for any crime that is only a property crime. And that includes stolen vehicles,” Zuccerella explained. “If I’m in a police car, and somebody runs up to me and says that person just stole my car. I ask, ‘Did he hurt you?’ and you say no, we can’t chase it. …Our hands are tied.”
“So lock your car doors,” he said. “Lock it or lose it. If they don’t have a car to steal they won’t come here.”