The Police Department
Before Darien officially created its Police Department in 1925, the town was seen as an easy, under-patrolled stretch of the Post Road for bootleggers to cruise through on their way to selling their stores of whiskey.
"Nobody had reckoned with the idea that the Post Road was the main highway up and down the east coast, and during Prohibition, if you were moving booze, you were moving it by truck most of the time. You were moving it on the Post Road, and you were moving it through Darien," said Kenneth Reiss, author of The Story of Darien, Connecticut.
"If you had a town where they knew there was no police car, or no police department, they pretty much did what they wanted," Reiss said.
Bootleggers weren't the only hooligans plaguing Darien in the early 1920s.
According to Reiss, a lone gunman, later identified as "Big Mike" Riccitelli, held up a Railroad Avenue (later Tokeneke Road) store in April, 1924. Riccitelli fatally shot the 20-year-old manager, Herbert May.
Darienites acknowledged that the current system of constables, grand jurors and justices of the peace was no longer adequate for policing the town, and the police department was created just more than a year later.
The department officially began work on July 6, 1925, with three members. A chief and four additional members were added later that summer.
The original department operated out of the Town Hall, which was located at the corner of Mansfield Avenue and Post Road, where Good Goods now stands. The building was equipped with jail cells in the back -- the outer walls of which can still be seen from Mansfield.
At the annual town meeting in the fall of 1931, the Board of Finance and Board of Selectman voted to appropriate $2,500 to purchase a site for a new headquarters. The current site on Hecker Avenue was chosen, and the building was constructed for a total cost of $30,500.
The department moved over to its new home -- the same building it occupies now -- in October, 1932.
"The building is one of the most compact and up-to-date police stations of its size in the state," according to the Corbin Document, which was compiled in 1946. The department shared the facility with town court, which occupied the second floor, and housed such technology as "telephones, teletype and patrol call-boxes and radio cars."
Darien's reputation as a no-nonsense town grew along with its new police force. One lieutenant in particular, Amos Anderson, was known for catching bootleggers and other crooks.
"He was given credit for kind of a sixth sense that he could tell when people were up to no good," Reiss said.
With no Merritt Parkway and Interstate-95, anyone passing from New York to New Haven would drive along the Post Road, where Anderson was likely to be waiting.
"People who were coming through at 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning were not necessarily up to snuff, and [Anderson] was out there sometimes," Reiss said. "He would stop cars, look in them, search them, stuff you can't even do today. A couple of times he got himself shot at."
A cartoon published in the New York Daily Mirror in October, 1933 boasted of his battles.
"He's called the `Lone Wolf of the Boston Post Road.' He fights alone. He's been in 5 gun fights on his machine at 70 miles an hour. He carried 14 gun wounds -- and has 21 broken bones!" the cartoon reads.
"He won glory in 6 battles in France -- was twice wounded. Returning home he became the terror of bandits.
"Anderson was once shot down and left for dead with 8 bullets in his body but they couldn't kill him.
"In a running fight he captured 4 desperadoes wanted in New York City for 43 stick-up and 3 murders. The police termed it, `the greatest single handed arrest ever recorded,'" the cartoon declares.
Anderson became a larger-than-life warning to out-of-towners that Darien was no longer an under-patrolled, easy target for bootleggers.