Crime Numbers in East Hampton Town Are Down

Chief Sarlo cites five-year low in his report
Accidents in the Town of East Hampton dropped to below 900 for the first time since 2013, though there was a rise in the number of accidents that resulted in injuries. Durell Godfrey

Crime is down in East Hampton Town, following a nationwide trend, Police Chief Michael Sarlo told the town board in presenting his annual report on Tuesday. Property and personal crimes — burglary, larceny, criminal mischief, harassment — dipped and are all at five-year lows. 

There was an overall drop in calls for service — the first significant drop in such calls after a steady increase over the past 10 years, Chief Sarlo said. In 2018, police answered 18,079 calls, as opposed to 20,005 a year earlier. In 2016 and 2015, there were 19,689 and 19,683, respectively. 

Accidents dropped to below 900 for the first time since 2013. There were 877 accidents in 2018, as opposed to 955 the year before, though there was a rise in accidents that resulted in injuries, from 129 to 155, according to the chief’s report. 

There were two fatal accidents last year. “Any more than zero is obviously too many,” Chief Sarlo said. 

The department saw a 10-year low in drunken-driving arrests in 2018, with 139. There were 214 the year before. Only three of the department’s 45 officers made 10 or more D.W.I. arrests last year. As 26 of its officers have less than 10 years on the job, the chief said in the report, it is imperative that the department remain committed to enforcing those laws. 

With the exception of its top three officers, the department averaged 2.1 D.W.I. arrests per officer last year. “Given the rural, dimly lit, and winding roadways within our town, the number of accidents and the high volume of traffic, we must remain focused on deterring citizens from drinking or taking drugs and then driving,” he said. 

The opioid epidemic is also a focus, as it was in 2018. A major narcotics investigation in conjunction with the Suffolk County district attorney’s East End Drug Task Force, the Postal Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration resulted in the arrest of 17 people in connection with a major drug ring in Montauk. 

The chief told the town board about Arthur Scalzo, the department’s officer of the year, calling him “instrumental in taking the Montauk narcotics investigation over the finish line.”

Chief Sarlo recently lent his voice to a public service announcement about the opioid crisis. (It features other local police chiefs as well and can be seen at FindHelpSouthampton.com.) He hopes to do more. 

Despite these and other efforts, there was the same number of overdoses in 2018 — 10 — as in 2017, as well as the same number of fatal overdoses — three. Using Narcan, officers rescued three overdose victims who otherwise would have died. 

The department hopes to increase community outreach and enforcement efforts. Chief Sarlo said he is looking at establishing new protocols for investigating overdoses and incidences of Narcan administration, as well as improving training for officers handling mental health issues during patrol duties. He would also like to increase public information campaigns regarding prescription drug deposit boxes. Just yesterday a new box was installed at the Montauk police precinct thanks to a donation from Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. 

Last year, the department collected 260 pounds of unwanted medications during two Drug Take Back Days it hosted and in its collection boxes at police headquarters in Wainscott, at the town senior citizens center, and at the Pantigo health care facility. 

The department also made an effort last year to have police officers enforce the town code regarding litter, parking, uncovered loads, taxicab laws, and noise, for instance. Data showed that town code summonses decreased from 759 to 566 from 2017 to 2018, perhaps because the number of complaints made decreased. Even noise complaints, both residential and commercial, were at a five-year low. 

“Our hope is through consistent presence, enforcement, and public awareness, we’ve made a significant impact on reducing the incidents of these offenses,” the chief told the board.

Still, he continued, his department would remain vigilant, particularly in Montauk and the Amagansett commercial business district during summer weekends. 

A townwide upgrade to the radio emergency communications system remains a top priority for the department. The project, which has been ongoing, will improve radio efficiency for police officers in the town, the village, and Sag Harbor Village, as well as for the fire departments and emergency medical ser­vice agencies. Stages of the project will be completed in the spring and fall, Chief Sarlo said. 

Another goal for 2019 is to increase the department’s presence in schools to improve safety and security while continuing to build trust and relationships with students, parents, and faculty.

In 2018, the department met its goal of increasing safety on the roads through high-visibility enforcement efforts and a public information-sharing campaign. There was a concerted effort to use social media to highlight school bus safety and the dangers of using hand-held devices while driving and driving while intoxicated. 

The number of vehicle and traffic violations issued dropped 17 percent over all. “We will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives in an effort to determine efficiency of department patrol work,” the chief said. 

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the board was grateful for the officers’ professionalism and dedication, which is showing in the statistics. The drop in crime was no accident, he said. “That’s through great leadership, dedication. Very proud of our force here. . . . Thank you all.”

With Reporting by Christopher Walsh