Officers Ryan Creighton, left, and John Locke patrol Front Steet...

Officers Ryan Creighton, left, and John Locke patrol Front Steet in Greenport on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Southold Town has hired two part-time police officers that will be dedicated to patrol Greenport Village on Foot. Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold has added two part-time police officers to its ranks as it braces for an influx of visitors to the North Fork this summer.

The officers, Ryan Creighton and John Locke, began May 15 and will be paid $23.55 hourly. They will patrol the 1.2-square-mile waterfront village of Greenport, which has just over 2,000 residents, until Sept.18.

“There’s just so much activity going on down there; it’ll at least give us a little bit of a better presence,” Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said Tuesday, describing the surge in tourism fueled by the area's shops and restaurants. 

Last weekend had the highest number of people he has seen in the village in several years, Flatley added.

Though the chief described Greenport as “by far the busiest” sector for the department, he dismissed the notion that additional officers were hired to address a spike in crime.

Year-round, one of the department’s 35 patrol officers is assigned to Greenport. Until about three years ago, at least one part-time officer was hired seasonally, Flatley said.

But hiring challenges, including a dearth of eligible candidates, stalled the process for at least two years.

“It’s a commitment that someone has to make,” Flatley said, explaining that the candidates must complete training at the Suffolk police academy in Brentwood on their own time, without the guarantee of full-time employment.

Policing in the village was a key issue raised at a joint meeting between the village and town boards Tuesday.

Some village officials have requested that a satellite police office open in Greenport to improve community policing and response throughout the year.

“We’ve become extremely busy not only in the summertime, but there are other issues in the wintertime that I think [Southold police] can help us with,” said Greenport trustee Mary Bess Phillips.

Phillips said due to the seasonality of the village, some find themselves without work or housing in the off-season, which at times creates safety concerns.

The police chief confirmed that the department regularly responds to calls about people experiencing homelessness in the area who often attempt to seek shelter in unoccupied homes.

“They’re trying to find anyplace to get out of the weather and cold,” he said, adding that connecting some with emergency housing is “frustrating” since some nonprofits that provide emergency housing often have rules that prohibit people from sheltering if they have substance abuse issues.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said he isn’t convinced a substation would be beneficial.

“Some of the [issues] described sound like humanitarian efforts, not so much policing,” he said. “Wouldn’t you rather have those feet on the ground, walking and patrolling?”

Greenport has been under the town’s police department jurisdiction since 1994, after residents supported a referendum to abolish the village’s own police force.

Flatley welcomed more discussion on the topic. “I would definitely be open to the idea,” he said. “It’s just a matter of who finds the space and who pays the bills.”

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