Dec 17, 2011

Editorial / A violent act and our uneasy sense of vulnerability - Westport News

We live in a violent world.

We live in a nation where in 2010, a violent crime occurred every 25 seconds, a forcible rape every six minutes, a murder every 35 minutes.

We live in a state whose capital city last year registered 26 homicides, in a county whose biggest community last year recorded 22 homicides.

But this isn't Hartford. This isn't Bridgeport. Westport prides itself on its charity and its civility. Homicides aren't supposed to happen here.

That is precisely why the town was left shocked and numb by last week's fatal shooting of a well-respected, 65-year-old jeweler in an apparent late-night robbery at his office.

Yekutiel Zeevi, known to his friends as "Kuti," was shot in his second-floor office in the Compo Shopping Center at about the same time retail merchants in the complex were ushering out the last of the night's holiday shoppers before locking up.

Now, as 25 local and state police detectives search for a suspect, Westport shakes off its sense of disbelief and searches for an answer. How could this happen here?

The short answer is that evil does not always obey boundaries. But our shock, our dismay and our uneasy sense of vulnerability stem from the fact that violence visits Westport so infrequently.

"We pride ourselves in having a safe community where people look after each other," Police Chief Dale Call said of the shooting. "It's tragic, there's no other way to look at it."

Said a 19-year-old Bridgeport youth who works at a sporting goods store in the shopping center, "You usually hear about this kind of thing where I live ... not in a small place like this."

It has been 15 years since Westport's last homicide, a domestic dispute in which a man shot and killed his estranged wife at her workplace, then killed himself.

Recent crime statistics document the chief's contention that Westport is a safe community -- among the 10 safest in Connecticut, by one account.

The FBI tracks serious crime -- including violent crime and crimes against property. In Westport, the 2010 FBI data shows, more than 95 percent of serious crime was against property, not people.

The town recorded a scant 14 violent crimes last year: seven aggravated assaults, five robberies and two forcible rapes. That compares with 299 reported larcenies, 78 burglaries, and 16 motor-vehicle thefts -- crimes in which no person was threatened or even touched.

The FBI data also shows violent crimes in Westport have declined for two consecutive years, from 28 in 2008 to 20 in 2009 to 14 last year.

For its size, Westport is very well protected. With a population of 27,000, the town has 68 police officers.

Of 13 Connecticut municipalities with populations of 24,000 to 30,000, only one -- gritty NeLondohas more police officers, according to the FBI's 2010 data.

The 68 officers in Westport compare very favorably to similarly-sized Ridgefield's 45, New Milford's 47 and East Haven's 52, the FBI data shows.

Police believe there was nothing random about the apparent robbery and the killing of Yekutiel Zeevi, rather that his business was targeted specifically. It is not a retail store where customers walk in off the street to browse; it was a maker of high-end jewelry where clients made appointments and had to be buzzed into the building through a security door.

The man police believe killed him had visited the day before and returned on a night when a New York City diamond merchant also was there, a man who also was shot but survived.

Ironically, Yekutiel Zeevi in earlier years was no stranger to conflict and to danger. Friends called him fearless. He was born in Israel and was an infant during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to Israel's independence. "Kuti" was raised by a disciplinarian father who was quick to raise a hand to rebuke him. As a young man, he was a commando in the Israeli Navy during a period of intense Middle East hostility.

He would survive all of that, emigrate to America and find his way into the jewelry business and into Westport, where he would raise a family and prosper.

The community's collective heart goes out to his family.

Westport was a safe place when Yekutiel Zeevi settled here a generation ago. Even in the face of his brutal slaying, it still is.

The article above was taken from this weeks " Westport News" , where the recent Robbery, Murder and attempted murder at a local jewelery shop, has brought the citizens of this quaint suburbanite town to a grueling reality check regarding violent crime - and this in the midst of a what is usually a lovely festive time of year. As the article states the mindset that "crime is not supposed to happen here" is sadly incorrect as we have learned from the Petit family crimes and many others over the past ten years alone. One need only click on the Connecticut cold case website to the right of this blog, to learn that unsolved crimes alone are plentiful in one of the wealthiest States in the nation. Looking even closer you ll see that quite a few unsolved murders have occurred in sleepy little hamlet type sound side environs such as Westport Milford and the like.

The man who committed the murder and Robbery is still at large and has been spotted on video eyeing Jewelery stores in New York City and as far away as Philadelphia. He tries to change his appearance, such as padding his coat to appear heavier -this in the Westport crimes - but as anyone who watches the videos below can see, it is indeed the same man in all of these videos.

I suggest that as difficult as it may seem right now while the town and other areas are still grieving this loss, we try to learn from this terrible act of violence, and at least insure that we and our loved ones are doing our part to keep ourselves our family and ourcommunities as safe as posssible through awareness and vigilance.

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