Fewer Police Calls So Far

For years it has been a given in East Hampton and across the East End that calls to the police and resulting arrests were on an upward trend. During the first quarter of 2018, however, local police jurisdictions as well as police across the county saw the trend reversed.

Calls to the East Hampton Town police during the first quarter, as compared to 2017, dropped 13.1 percent. During the first quarter of 2017, the East Hampton Town police “events” log, which records calls of all types, had 3,620 entries: That number is down to 3,144 this year. Arrests dropped almost 9 percent, from 236 to 202.

East Hampton Village shows a similar decline, with 808 log entries this year, compared to 908 last year, an 11 percent drop. Arrests have plummeted in the village, going from 60 to 26 this year, a drop of 57 percent. 

According to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire, its overall incident log shows a drop of 7.4 percent.

In an April 4 press release from the acting Suffolk County police commissioner, Stuart Cameron, another drop was noted. “Violent crime, which includes homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, dropped 18.9 percent for the first three months of 2018 compared to the same timeframe in 2017,” the press release states. “Shooting incidents saw one of the most dramatic decreases of all statistics, with nine people injured or killed by gunfire in 2018 versus 17 in 2017, a 47 percent reduction. Property crimes including burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft are also down by 10.3 percent.”

Even the number of drug overdoses, particularly those caused by heroin and opioids, has been headed down, at least on the county level. “Over all, the number of drug overdoses dropped 42 percent with 80 percent fewer people dying from heroin overdoses.” Part of that decrease may be attributable to the widespread training in East End departments on the use of Narcan, a lifesaving drug administered by police.

The reversal comes after years of increases, at least in East Hampton. Starting in 2012, when the town police added harbormaster calls to the logs, events increased every year. In 2012, there were 17,844 events logged. In 2017, there were 20,005 events, the first time the department topped 20,000 in a year. That increase, over the six-year period, comes in at 12 percent, until the first quarter of 2018, when events dropped by 13.1 percent. The number went from 3,620 in the first quarter of 2017 to 3,144 this year. 

The question why seems difficult to answer. It might be something as simple as the weather, Chief McGuire suggested. The first quarter has been marked by lingering cold and storms, putting a damper on activities, legal or not.

“I don’t see a specific factor,” Chief Michael Sarlo of the town department said. He, too, mentioned weather as a possibility, as well as the practice of assigning officers to school-related patrols, school-crossing duties, and the like. 

Or the drop may simply be caused by good police work. “The statistics in the first quarter of 2018 show impressive results which are reflective of the hard work done by the men and women of this department,” Mr. Cameron said, referring to the county. He also pointed to a bonus: “The drop in crime occurred with a 17-percent cost reduction in overtime during the first quarter.”