"The story is over. The families are burying their loved ones. Please leave our towns."
These were the sentiments of State Representative DebraLee Hovey during a Capital memorial service December 19, but they represent the comments of a growing throng of Newtown residents, merchants and officials, as well as a number of survivors who have contacted The Bee in the days since the Sandy Hook School rampage.
For several stretches of time beginning early Monday morning, December 17, most of the police band radio traffic focused on dispatching officers to remove media representatives from areas of private property that were being overrun by news crews, many with support staff toting pop-up kiosks, cameras and arriving in huge vehicles that are choking off the traffic flow of customers to local businesses.
The many shops in Sandy Hook Center are being particularly affected by this crush of media and support vehicles, with the Toy Tree among those hardest hit. At a time of the year that can make a financial difference between economic survival and closure, that small boutique has remained devoid of clients who can't, or refuse to try to, reach it through stagnant traffic on Church Hill Road.
And the few that brave the sometimes hourlong commute that on normal days can take as little as a few minutes are stymied because upon arrival, there is no place for them to park because of the combination of media vehicles mixing with well-wishers arriving in town to visit a makeshift memorial on the still closed Riverside Road adjacent to Sandy Hook School.
On Wednesday morning, Police Chief Michael Kehoe responded to the pleas of Sandy Hook and other businesses affected, like the Toro restaurant and the Citgo Gas Stop, where camera crews continue to line the curb attempting to get footage and report on the comings and goings of Hawley School students, as well as mourners attending services at St Rose of Lima Church.
He said an officer and supervisor would be canvassing businesses to determine that those owners wanted media and vehicles to be cleared off their property, but at the same time acknowledged with a tone of frustration that reporters and their support vehicles had a right to occupy public property to a certain degree.
"We started looking at legal violations related to parking, like blocking traffic with their large trucks, obstructing driveways or traffic control devices, and those in violation were told to move," Chief Kehoe said Thursday. He said the trucks were being asked to park in an area of Washington Street near the Exit 11 overpasses that has sufficient room for many oversized vehicles, but is still relatively close to Sandy Hook Center.
One residential owner adjacent to the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company headquarters and its neighboring memorial tells of media crews smashing decorative fencing, and leaving behind so much trash that a truck and crew had to be called in to scoop it all up and take it away.
Selectman Will Rodgers told The Bee Tuesday that visiting media simply must be more aware and respectful of the areas they are working, which are not designed for such an intense amount of use and traffic.
"The press are choking the life out of our Sandy Hook businesses," he said.
Even Senator-Elect Chris Murphy contacted the local newspaper from Washington to clarify how bad the situation has become, and vowed to contact local and state officials to try and determine what could be done.
Mike Burton, who represents a consortium of Sandy Hook merchants, and who is a commercial property owner himself, said the media's presence is a double-edged sword because its reporters are responsible for eliciting the incredible outpouring of support from the national and global communities.
"But there is a lot of negative affect from the media to Sandy Hook in terms of loss of business," he said. "The amount of traffic is discouraging people from going to Sandy Hook to shop."