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Sagaponack OKs Southampton police deal

Sagaponack Village Hall (Dec. 30, 2010)

Sagaponack Village Hall (Dec. 30, 2010) Credit: Erin Geismar

Sagaponack Village trustees voted Monday to stay with the Southampton Police Department in exchange for an enhanced police presence, nixing a plan for the small Hamptons town to form its own law enforcement agency.

The agreement provides a police officer in the village 24 hours a day between May 15 and Sept. 15, and a police officer assigned to the village between 8 a.m. and midnight the rest of the year. The agreement, passed last week by the Southampton Town Board, also stipulates that officers assigned to Sagaponack will focus on community-oriented policing and get to know village residents.

"This gives us almost exactly what we wanted to have," Mayor Donald Louchheim said before the 5-0 vote. "We're still paying a disproportionate amount of the police budget, but so be it."

Southampton offered Sagaponack the deal to retain the $2.3 million that village residents paid for law enforcement this year, about 10 percent of the town's police budget. Before the agreement, Sagaponack officials complained that there was little police presence to deal with speeding cars or quality-of-life issues.

The agreement states that officers assigned to the area "will maintain person-to-person communication with Village Hall staff and village officials." The officer assigned to Sagaponack, population 314, could only be taken off in the case of emergencies.

For years village officials had complained that they didn't get the coverage they wanted. Louchheim said they preferred a policing style more focused on talking to residents. An analysis released by the village this month found that it could save at least $500,000 a year by forming its own police force with part-time officers and agreements with other departments.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst called the village's vote "a sound and positive outcome for village as well as town residents and taxpayers." She said the deal "serves as a great example of the direction all municipal leaders need to take together to contain, rather than grow, the size of budgets and government."

Sagaponack trustee William Barbour said he liked the deal, for the most part.

"I don't know how they're [Southampton police] going to do it, but I guess that's not our concern," Barbour said. "I think they need to hire more officers."

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