As the Southampton Town Justice Court prepares to move to Hampton Bays, the Sag Harbor Village Board said the village could avoid excessive police overtime and an inconvenience for residents if the town creates a court in or near the village and a video arraignment system at Sag Harbor police headquarters.
At the board’s meeting on Tuesday, December 10, Mayor Gregory Ferraris said that 43.8 percent of traffic tickets given out by village police are dismissed in Southampton Town court because the small local police force is unable to spare officers to appear at hearings for disputed tickets. Mr. Ferraris said he’s discussed the idea of a town court farther east with Justice-elect Andrea Schiavoni, though nothing concrete is on the table at this time. He and Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said they are also supporting the idea of video arraignments, which would keep cops in the village and save time and gas expenses.
Mr. Ferraris noted that the proposed arraignment system and local court would not cost village taxpayers anything and the board, town and police department are exploring the benefits of the idea. Though Mr. Ferraris said he would not discuss logistics at this time, he pointed out that the Southampton Town Court’s move to Hampton Bays would create a hardship for residents east of Southampton Village.
“We constantly fight the battle of village taxpayers funding services outside the village,” the mayor said, though the decision will ultimately be up to the Southampton Town Board.
Chief Fabiano said Southampton approached the village with the idea for video arraignments. The system would use a video camera and monitor in the holding area at headquarters. While the trip to Southampton or Hampton Bays is not too difficult during the off season, Chief Fabiano said officers will lose a significant number of hours during the summer months and they often have to stay extra hours waiting for other officers to return from court.
“It could be a substantial savings,” Mr. Ferraris said, noting that the village is currently working to cut spending wherever possible to combat the current economic crisis and keep taxes from rising. He also noted that the village is taking steps to settle 6,800 unpaid parking tickets because Southampton Town has done little follow up on the delinquent citations.
Mr. Ferraris said the board is proposing that a parking bureau be created because fewer tickets have been written, especially for the last couple of years after traffic control officers lost the power to write tickets for U-turns, and because of the “extinction of nightclubs,” which have been recently redeveloped in Sag Harbor. The village has hired an independent data consulting business, Fundamental Business Service, Inc., to collect overdue and past fines for a 30-percent commission and they will be updating necessary computer software and procedures to track unpaid tickets more consistently, the mayor said.
In the past, ticket information was only reviewed every few years and there has been no follow up after initial notices are sent to offenders, Mr. Ferraris explained, noting that it will now be followed on an ongoing, monthly basis. He said the board is also working on a local law to allow officers to write tickets under village code, rather than having the proceeds shared with the town and state, as required by New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law.
“We’re writing the tickets, there’s no reason we shouldn’t share in that,” Mr. Ferraris said.