The lights of the patrol car illuminated a reedy, waterfront dead-end in Springs, that grew larger as East Hampton Town Police Officer Joe Izzo motored slowly down the unpaved road.
Dead-ends often attract people up to no good, the five-year police veteran explained. The residents on this street, he said, regularly report suspicious activity: kids smoking marijuana, sexual activity.
On this Friday night of Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer, at this cul-de-sac, there were no pot smokers or rompers, lucky for them.
After a final scope of the area, Officer Izzo moved on.
The radio crackled little that night—unusual for a summer Friday—and the police presence in town was already beefed up for the holiday.
For Officer Izzo, 27, who also volunteers in the Montauk Fire Department and the East Hampton Ambulance, he was living his dream—of serving in blue.
“I just like taking offenders off the street,” explained the East Hampton resident, who is also a field training officer in his department, responsible for showing the newer cops around.
Officer Izzo, who graduated from East Hampton High School in 2004, joined the department as a part-time cop out of the police academy following a stint stateside in the U.S. Army. He serves alongside his fiancée, Katherine Grogan, also 27. The couple, high school sweethearts, are engaged and will wed in East Hampton on April 5, 2014. No police theme is planned.
He moved to Montauk from Nassau County as a teen. She hails from Springs. Now, he primarily patrols Springs and she, Montauk.
Keeping his eyes open for offenses and safety hazards all the while, Officer Izzo beamed with pride when he told of a big arrest his fiancée made in early August. She responded to a call of a possible drunk driver and found that person in possession of 20 bags of heroin.
The competition is now on for him to top that, he said with a trademark laugh.
That night, he patrolled the winding, woodsy streets of Springs, the hamlet where the artist Jackson Pollock fatally flipped his car in 1956. Officer Izzo wished he had his radar for tracking speed, but it had been sent for calibration. Instead, he stopped motorists for failing to dim their high beams, an admitted pet peeve because it can blind oncoming drivers. Other pet peeves of his include littering (“There’s no reason for it.”) and showing careless disregard for others’ safety, as by tailgating or passing in no-passing zones.
At his discretion, he issued no tickets that night.
One Westchester County woman driving an SUV, brights ablaze on Montauk Highway, said, upon being pulled over, that she had been trying to find the Amagansett train station, but had been unsuccessful and so thought that if she turned on her brights, she would find it.
The police officer ran her name in his computer, checking for a suspended license or warrants. All was good, and he led her to the train station nearby.
“I consider myself a pretty active cop,” he said, “but when it comes to traffic stops for minor infractions, I like to give people breaks if it’s not a blatant disregard for public safety.”
That said, he is no pushover.
Like many officers, he likes to strike up a bit of conversation during a stop. “The longer you talk, the more you get to know if someone is being honest or trying to hide something,” he said. “If you just take the license and registration and leave, you’ll never know if they were trying to hide something.”
After a few stops in Springs, Officer Izzo drove out to his old stomping grounds in Montauk, a hotbed of police-blotter activity in the summer.
“Montauk is its own animal,” he explained, adding how vacationers often walk around with drugs in their pockets or beer bottles blatantly in hand. “They do things they wouldn’t do when they’re home,” he said.
An influx of Irish who work as waiters and bouncers and live in worker housing in the hamlet often find themselves victims of crimes, he said, because they are told there is no crime in Montauk. They then leave property out and it gets swiped.
Patrons stand in line so long at Pizza Village, they sometimes break out into fights, he said, and when the bars close at 4 a.m., bibulous bar-goers flock to the 7-Eleven. “Everybody just stumbles out of the bars at once. It can get pretty volatile.”
Rounding a corner, Officer Izzo suddenly jumped out of his car. A young man and his pals had been walking down the street with an open beer bottle. Their reaction was just as swift, and the bottle was on the ground in no time. After a polite chat and a check for warrants, they threw the bottle out and were on their way.
“So, I think the big caper of the night was the kid with the beer bottle,” Office Izzo said later, at shift’s end.
On his return to headquarters in Wainscott, he made a few more traffic stops. During one, the driver and his passenger stole a kiss while they were pulled off to the side of the road, lit up by the police car.
“I’m glad I brought them closer together,” Officer Izzo said with a laugh.