Road Stops Skyrocket In 2017

Cops’ new shifts put more boots on ground

Since New Year’s Day, when the East Hampton Town Police Department changed the schedule and squad makeup of its uniformed officers, arrests have skyrocketed by 45.5 percent, according to the weekly logs. The numbers were confirmed by Chief Michael D. Sarlo, who said the bulk of the arrests stemmed from traffic stops. As of midnight Monday, police reported making 211 arrests since Jan. 1, as compared to 145 over the same time period last year. In the same time period in 2015, there were 112 arrests.

Officers used to rotate through eight-hour shifts, moving from “day” to “night” to “overnight.” Now they are on a fixed schedule, working 12-hour shifts, either day or night. The change has allowed the department to trim down from five squads to four, which translates into more boots on the ground at all times.

“With increased staffing levels, during the off-season, our supervisors are able to place officers on directed enforcement details,” Chief Sarlo said in an email on Tuesday. That means “targeting the roadways that have the most complaints of speeding or accidents, so our traffic stops are much higher, with out compromising response time or investigative efforts,” he said.

The chief declined to cite particular locations, but Town Lane in Amagansett appears to be one of them. Residents there have long complained about reckless drivers along that narrow road. Abraham’s Path, a well-known route from Montauk Highway in Amagansett to Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton, is another.

While the number of drunken-driving arrests in recent weeks on both roads has  increased, the new police figures also include less serious offenses such as expired inspection or registration stickers, unlicensed driving, and other traffic infractions.

With additional officers now on patrol, day or night, alcohol-related arrests are having far less impact on the number of police deployed all over town. Such charges can take the arresting officer, who is responsible for maintaining custody over the driver, as much as two and a half hours or more to process.

The procedure takes even longer where a felony charge is involved, Chief Sarlo explained. A felony drunken-driving arrest, he said, creates “the possibility of a vehicle impound, which includes complete inspection of the condition and inventory of the contents; and in such cases where the defendant may be transported to the hospital due to injuries in an accident, there is often a blood sample taken at the hospital which needs to be transported directly to the Suffolk crime lab. Leandra’s Law arrests and serious injury accidents take the evidence required and documentation needed up another level, making the process even longer.” (One arrest under Leandra’s Law was made last weekend and is reported elsewhere on this page.)

Arrests are not the only area of police work the chief sees improving. “We are also ensuring that our community policing efforts are being improved upon, as officers are getting out of their cars more often and participating at schools, and with business owners,” he said.

“Obviously, during the summer season, with the exponential increase in call volume, those additional officers will not have quite as much time for directed enforcement, but we hope to continue to maintain an increased presence in our problematic traffic areas to increase the safety of the community,” Chief Sarlo wrote. “Bike patrols in the summer, along with foot patrols in Montauk and Amagansett should also improve quality