A Close Reading of the East Hampton Star Police Blotter

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: The East Hampton Star

There’s a line I often think about that really sums up the state of crime in the Hamptons. It appeared in a fall 2013 edition of the East Hampton Star and has haunted me ever since: “Only two people were charged with drunken driving last week, one in East Hampton Town and one in the village, as sure a signal as falling leaves that summer has ended.”

That summary came from the erudite reporter T. E. McMorrow, who helmed the Star’s police desk for years, noting with good humor every ridiculous crime reported in the stretch of Long Island between Southampton and Montauk. He’s since given up the desk to a new crop of reporters, but his words still ring true today: Last week alone, nine people were arrested on DUI charges in an area where it takes less than ten minutes to summon an Uber. (Billy Joel still appears to hold the personal record, however, logging at least three crashes in two years.)

And the second most common crime in the Hamptons? According to my informal stats, it’s people driving off in the wrong car. Per the Star, it’s happened at least four times this summer, once with a pair of matching Subarus, once with a pair of matching Audis, and twice with a pair of matching Jeeps.

A woman pulled a 2018 Subaru into the North Main Street I.G.A. lot on Aug. 2 and suddenly realized she was in the wrong vehicle. It was identical to her own Subaru, parked someplace else. Police, who’d just received a report of a stolen vehicle, straightened things out and both vehicles were soon back with their rightful owners. (Except for the make of the cars, there was an identical incident last week, when a man left Goldberg’s in a Jeep that wasn’t his.) 

Still, it’s not all garden-variety car crimes. Some are just crimes that involve gardens and cars. This summer’s big scandal centered around a Mercedes-Benz–driving thief who stole at least 23 dozen eggs from a farm stand before her reign of terror was ended by police last week.

At least that one was solved; the ongoing hamburger mystery, however, remains open. According to the Star, a Springs woman is being tormented by an unknown assailant who’s left at least four McDonalds burgers scattered around her property: one in her mailbox, one on her driveway, one by her car, and one on her front porch.

In case it isn’t clear by now, the Star’s crime blotter is the best publication on earth. If the real-estate section shows the Hamptons at its best, the police logs show the resort town as it truly is — with more than its share of entitled drunk drivers, entitled drunk bar patrons, and rich people who may or may not be drunk but definitely hate their neighbors. Take this report from April:

A resident of Shore Drive East called police on April 1 after finding dog feces on the front porch of her house and in the yard. She had been away for several weeks, she told an officer, and she accused a neighbor of doing it on purpose. The officer spoke to the neighbor, who claimed to know nothing about the porch poop but did admit to leaving feces in the woman’s yard in the past — but only, he said, after she had first flung some into his yard. When the officer went back to the woman, she conceded that she had indeed done so. The neighbors were warned to stop entering each other’s property, stop throwing excrement at each other, and avoid all contact in future.

It’s also a place of delicious irony:

A mandatory-mask rule went into effect statewide again on Dec. 13 by order of Gov. Kathy Hochul. Five days later, on Saturday, a woman who gave her name as Karen called the police to report that some customers and employees were seen not wearing masks indoors at the Pantigo Road location of Goldberg’s Bagels. When an officer arrived, everyone inside was masked, in compliance with the law.

And that wasn’t even the worst crime to occur at Goldberg’s Bagels. In May, a man called the cops to report that the soup was too salty. According to the Star, the man “is no longer allowed to enter the store upon pain of arrest.”

It’s not surprising that celebrities make frequent appearances in the blotter. Celebrity chef Todd English, Jason Kidd, former Nascar CEO Brian France, Bravo star Thomas Ravenel, former CNN anchor Felicia Taylor, Nets player Kenneth Faried, Sean Avery, and Meryl Streep’s nephew have all been arrested there in recent years. But for the big names trying to keep a low profile, secrecy is not possible if you’re going to call the cops. Last December, there was a blind item about a man whose name isn’t not Chris Cuomo, who complained to the police about paparazzi.

Along with his wife, a television news anchor recently fired from his job at CNN told police last Thursday that their children have been seeing photographers lurking about. According to the police report, “the paparazzi wait down by the beach parking lot for them to leave, and when they are out in public the paparazzi tries to get a reaction out of them to get on camera.”

Though, just as a broken clock that violated journalistic norms to protect his deviant brother is occasionally correct, according to a report from last August, that caller who isn’t not Chris Cuomo may have had a point.

A paparazzo in a blue Toyota, after being turned away from the Sag Harbor Yacht Club yard on Aug. 11, yelled out his car window, “I’ll get that f-ing picture of Chris!”

Records show Alec Baldwin narrowly avoided arrest in 2014 after he put a photographer in a headlock in a public park. And as it turns out, according to a July report, not even the paparazzi are safe from the paparazzi.

A photographer told police Saturday afternoon that he was being harassed by someone who also worked as a paparazzo. He felt “threatened and scared,” he said, claiming that the man was following his car to events to take his own photos. The accused man told police he was just another paparazzo doing his job. Police advised the two to avoid each other if they found themselves at the same event. 

But more than anything, the Hamptons are, as I learned this summer, but a mere set piece for the prolific espionage novelist Alan Furst’s yearslong campaign of petty demands on the Sag Harbor police force.

Chronicled neatly and often discreetly in the Star’s archives are about a decade’s worth of frivolous, hilarious, and occasionally wild complaints about suspicious trash and hacked devices, including an answering machine, a computer, and an Audi. (Not the one that was accidentally stolen this summer.) And lest you assume this is just senility kicking in, I should note here that the 81-year-old wolf-crier wrote and published at least six novels during this time, giving cogent interviews all the while.

But I digress. Just this past June, the Star reports, Furst called 911 to complain that someone had blocked him online.

If your email isn’t working, it is not a police emergency. An officer relayed that message to Alan Furst on June 8 after he called 911 to say someone was blocking his correspondence.

That call apparently came on the heels of a May 911 call concerning a piece of trash.

Alan Furst called last Thursday to say he’d found a small cardboard box on his lawn that he believed was intentionally dumped there. Police came and removed the box.

It was a somewhat ironic complaint, considering the 911 call Furst made last August, in which he complained of the absence of a cardboard box.

Alan Furst reported a “suspicious FedEx truck” parked in his driveway on Hampton Street on Friday at around 9 p.m. Mr. Furst stated that he passed his house while on his way back from an errand and saw the truck in his driveway.

 

No packages were left behind, though, which he found odd. Police found no property damage and advised the homeowner to call FedEx to ascertain why the truck was in the driveway.

But the prolific thriller writer does seem to attract a lot of suspicious trash. In 2017, records show, he summoned the police force to investigate a “wet napkin.”

Alan Furst called police Saturday afternoon after finding a wet napkin in his yard, which, according to the report, he deemed suspicious.

It would be entertaining enough if Furst’s dealings with the cops ended there. But delving deeper into the Star’s archives reveals a diabolical plotline that sounds, well, like something out of an Alan Furst novel.

Alan Furst of Hampton Road, the author of popular novels of international intrigue, presented police with a mystery Monday. At some point between last Thursday and Friday, persons unknown “did damage to his front porch screen door,” according to the report. The top hinge on the door was ripped off its frame. Mr. Furst had the door repaired at the cost of $200 before calling police. He told the investigating officer he suspected a person nursing a grudge from “an incident that took place a few years ago.”

But it gets weirder. The Star’s reporting suggests Furst truly believes the Sag Harbor police force took an oath to serve and protect his electronic devices. Take, for example, the mystery of his illuminated Audi brake lights, which both Furst and one of his neighbors deemed suspicious enough to call the cops about in 2015.

Alan Furst called police to his Hampton Street residence on July 28, telling them that the brake lights on his 2005 Audi, parked in the driveway, were on. When he went outside to call police the lights went out. “He is concerned that someone is hacking into the computer in his vehicle,” according to the log.

A month later, Furst’s neighbor entered the investigation.

A neighbor of Alan Furst, the author, called police Friday, saying that the brake lights on Mr. Furst’s car had been on for several hours. Mr. Furst told an officer it is an ongoing problem. He has told police in the past that someone may have hacked into his car’s computer, as well as his home computer.

The Sag Harbor police department has also been summoned to investigate the devices inside Furst’s home. In 2014, records show, they responded to two separate calls involving Furst’s answering machine and laptop.

Alan Furst received an unwelcome Internet visitor last Thursday. The author of novels of international intrigue called police to his house, saying that someone had entered his computer and moved items around the screen from a remote location. Earlier that day, he told them, at 2 a.m., he had been awakened when his phone rang once and then disconnected. Mr. Furst “feels somebody may be harassing him because of one of his spy novels,” according to the police log.

Alan Furst, a best-selling author of spy novels and historical thrillers, called police last week for the second time in the past two months, concerned that he is the target of electronic skullduggery. Mr. Furst reported on June 3 that, while he had been away from his Hampton Street house for about 24 hours starting May 30, “an unknown person did change his voice recording on his home telephone answering machine.” Instead of his normal personal message, Mr. Furst told police, the outgoing recording had been switched to the generic default one that comes with the machine. 

But the most chilling police report of the summer doesn’t involve a celebrity at all.

A child’s nanny got stuck in handcuffs on June 15 and needed police assistance to remove them. The child, who’d handcuffed the nanny, told police this wasn’t the first time it had happened. Last time, he said, the fire department had been called in. This time, though, a number of different keys failed to unlock the cuffs, and they were finally picked open with a paper clip.

I hear Goldman has already offered the child a job.

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