East Hampton Village police arrested five youths on Wednesday night at the East Hampton Nature Trail, charging all five with possession of open containers of alcohol. One teen was charged with possession of marijuana. Because the five are all 17 or younger, police will not release their identities.
Police were tipped off to the youths’ nightly activities by a video posted on Facebook. According to the man who posted it, Dell Cullum, a nature photographer and contributor to The East Hampton Star, the youths have been congregating for the past year in the 23-acre preserve in a clearing between David’s and Huntting Lanes. They spend several hours each evening, he said, drinking beer and smoking marijuana, as well as selling drugs.
They pulled up benches, said Mr. Cullum, and left them facing each other on the ground between two streams. They left empty beer cans, cigarette butts, and other rubbish not only around the benches but in the water, which is home to ducks and other creatures. Several people told Mr. Cullum, he said, that the group also appeared to be selling drugs.
Mr. Cullum described his own run-in with the youths. He had been walking nearby, he said, when one teen approached him, standing directly in front of him so that he could not see what the others were up to. He felt intimidated, he said.
Mr. Cullum, who every morning has been cleaning up the mess left behind the night before, said things really began getting out of hand about three months ago.
“It was disgusting,” he said. He decided to shoot the video after a particularly bad morning. “It looked like somebody backed up with a pickup truck full of garbage and threw it in the water.” A few days after the video was posted it came to the attention of the police.
According to Chief Gerald Larsen, two officers on bicycles were sent in a little after 7 p.m., one entering the preserve from David’s Lane, the other from Huntting. They converged on the youths.
This morning, Thursday, Mr. Cullum entered the park at dawn as usual and came upon a half-case of beer, sitting in a stream. “Here we go again,” was his initial reaction. Then, he said later, he realized that the beer in the water was a sign that the youths had left in a hurry.
Actually, they were not in a hurry when they left the park last night. Handcuffed, the five were led down a path, out of the park, and placed in the back of police cruisers, then taken from there to police headquarters. They were issued appearance tickets for future arraignment in East Hampton Justice Court, and were eventually released to their parents or legal guardians.