A police detective’s gut feeling, combined with intelligence and a refusal to give up, resulted last year in the arrest of an East Hampton man who has been charged with 76 counts of sexual misconduct with children, including rape involving girls as young as 9 or 10.
Now that detective, Tina Giles, a 27-year veteran of the East Hampton Town Police Department, has been named its Officer of the Year. She will be feted, along with other top cops from local jurisdictions, at a Kiwanis dinner on Jan. 25.
On April 6, 2012, police arrested Fidel A. Castro-Brito, now 24, after a father came home from work and surprised the man in bed with his teenage daughter. As the father called police, Mr. Castro-Brito jumped out the bedroom window and fled. He was picked up soon after and charged with five counts of sexual misconduct with the girl, who was 15 or 16 at the time.
Police initially thought that the contact between the two, which they said had come about through the Internet, was an isolated case. But Detective Giles had a feeling about it that she couldn’t let go of, arising in part from conversations with Mr. Castro-Brito.
One of Ms. Giles’s skills is the ability to speak Spanish. “People may say I’m fluent,” she said on Tuesday. “I don’t use the word fluent. I use the word ‘proficient.’ ” Whichever it is, she is at ease with the language, having studied abroad, during college, in Mexico City.
Understanding the nuances of a language allows one to read between the lines — to get a feeling from the way something is said as much as from the words themselves. Detective Giles had a feeling about Mr. Castro-Brito, and it was not a good one.
“In essence, she was the arresting officer in the original matter,” said Detective Lt. Chris Anderson, the unofficial spokesman for the town police, on Tuesday. “Based on her findings in that case and the interviews she made with the defendant and others, her ‘detective sense’ took over, leading her to believe that there were more victims.”
Because the putative victims were Latino, the detective’s language skills proved a major asset, putting the young people she interviewed at ease and helping them feel safe with her. In the end, the investigation went beyond East Hampton, possibly as far as New York City, though Detective Anderson would say only that “it was in the downstate area.” Speaking of the initial contact between Mr. Castro-Brito and his alleged victims, he said they were “all known to him, in one sense or another.”
In November, after eight months of investigation, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office announced it was bringing 71 new charges against Mr. Castro-Brito. What Detective Giles had unearthed was an apparent serial sexual offender.
The felony charges against Mr. Castro-Brito include multiple counts of predatory sexual assault against a child, two charges of rape stemming from sexual intercourse with a girl under 11 years of age, multiple charges of sexual abuse many charges involving recordings of sexual encounters with children. It would appear from the charges that Mr. Castro-Brito made them himself.
Detective Anderson is usually guarded in what he says to the press, rarely revealing emotion. Not so in this case.
“There is no hesitation on my part in referring to this defendant as a predator,” he said forcefully. “This guy was a predator. If not for the efforts of Detective Giles, taking it a step further than she needed to, there might well have been more victims.”
“She sacrificed a lot of her personal time and life for the job,” he added. Detective Giles, who was born and grew up in East Hampton, joined the force in September 1986, after having spent four summers working as a traffic control officer. She had no children at the time. She is now married with two daughters, one in college and one in high school.
She was the first woman here to be named to the rank of detective, in only her fifth year on the force. She found herself drawn to working with troubled youths, “investigating juveniles as victims and as perpetrators. I got more involved investigating juvenile crimes.”
She has had many successes with troubled youngsters. “A lot of kids have poor choices,” she said. “They get themselves involved in drugs, maybe dropping out of high school. And now they are productive adults and parents.”
The detective takes a holistic approach to law enforcement. “The juvenile justice system is there to rehabilitate a child more than to punish,” she said. “They do give a child a second chance. You want them to take responsibility for their actions.”
She is troubled by what she sees as increasing violence among younger children. “It does seem that more serious crimes are being committed at a younger age. There’s a lack of parents’ involvement, a need for parents to spend more time.”
One problem prevalent nationally has not surfaced in East Hampton, she said — gangs. “Gangs? I say there are more wannabes. They wannabe gangsters,” she said, laughing.
She called the honor soon to be bestowed on her “the highlight of my career.”
Summing up Detective’s Giles’s importance to the force, Detective Anderson said she “bridges a gap between the police department and the Hispanic community. I can’t say enough about her. She is a consummate professional.”
He paused for a moment, then added, “Think about the victim who is sitting there, whose life will be forever changed. She gave those victims a voice.”