East Hampton Town Police Detective Tina Giles and East Hampton Village Police Officer Mario Julio Galeano will be honored as 2012 officers of the year at a Kiwanis awards ceremony for East End officers at the Vineyards at Aquebogue on Friday. The two differ in many respects, but both speak Spanish, and both are credited with using intuitive skills to crack sex crimes involving minors last year.
Det. Giles made an arrest last spring for statutory rape that ballooned into a months-long investigation of one man’s sexual crimes against victims as young as 9 and 10, including rape and child pornography that the detective said the defendant had recorded on a cellphone in his bedroom. Following a hunch based upon interviews in Spanish, Ms. Giles led an investigation that involved the Suffolk County Computer Crimes Section of the Suffolk County Police Department and yielded an indictment on some 70 additional counts against Fidel Castro-Brito at the end of last year.
“Thanks to her instincts and investigative skills, this guy is never going to be a predator again,” East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker Jr. said in his office with the detective last week. He added that the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said it was one of the worst cases of its type it had prosecuted.
“This particular case stood out for everybody,” the chief said, when supervising officers were asked to recommend a nominee for officer of the year.
Det. Giles joined the police force in 1986 after working as a traffic control officer during the summers while attending the University of Connecticut. She grew up in East Hampton and graduated from East Hampton High School, majoring in Latin American studies in college and studying abroad in Mexico City, where she became proficient, as she described it, rather than fluent, in Spanish.
“What was I going to do with it?” she joked last week. A lot, it turned out: She worked as a bilingual receptionist at a mental health clinic in Connecticut before joining the police force, where from the get-go she did “a lot of interpreting,” also becoming one of the first DARE officers to go out into the local schools. In 1994 Det. Giles attended the FBI academy in Virginia for 11 weeks, leaving her 1-year-old daughter, Myra, in the care of her husband, Louis O’Neal. He coaches girls’ basketball at East Hampton High School, where their daughter Raya O’Neal, 16, is a junior; Myra O’Neal, now 20, is a sophomore at her mother’s alma mater, UConn.
Children and the welfare of children have been one professional focus for the detective, and she’s worked closely with social workers and pediatricians as well as the schools over the course of her career. As the number of Spanish-speaking residents of East Hampton Town has grown, her language skills have proven invaluable. One of three Spanish-speaking detectives working for the town today, she said the sexual abuse of children “has become more prevalent in our community,” which she attributed to multiple-family dwellings where strangers live in close proximity as well as a traditional reluctance among Latinos to speak openly about such crimes.
“Tina’s whole body of work as an officer and detective has always been exemplary,” Chief Ecker said last week. “The police department and the citizens of East Hampton are lucky to have her as a public servant.”
In East Hampton Village, Police Patrol Officer Galeano is credited with uncovering a sexual case involving a minor that led to a conviction of second-degree rape. Early last year he was on a routine patrol when he noticed “suspicious activity” involving a van parked at a rest area in Wainscott, he said, which turned out to be a case of intercourse between a 33-year-old Springs man, Kleber Sigcha, and the minor.
“Something was up,” the officer said at village headquarters on Friday, and he approached the vehicle to investigate. “Like I say, you’ve got to be a little annoying sometimes.”
Officer Galeano interviewed the man and the victim separately. “I tried to help her as much as possible,” he said. “Especially with a minor, you have to make them as comfortable as possible.”
That is a strategy he typically employs, he said, carrying “junior police officer” gold badges to give kids and letting them jump into his patrol car for a bit. You have to “get down to their level,” said the police officer, who’s 30, single, lives in Springs and said he loves children.
“We’re so small that we don’t have as much crime as the town,” he said of East Hampton Village, but “crime itself is just going up.” He attributed what seems to be a rise in sexual and domestic abuse cases to the economy, change in the local community and a rise in the number of people coming forward who in the past would not have reported such cases.