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Story - News

Jun 6, 2013 1:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suspicious Letters Prompt Concern At Southampton Town Hall

Jun 6, 2013 3:48 PM



UPDATE, Thursday, 1:40 p.m.

Three letters delievered to Southampton Town Hall this afternoon with suspicious addresses have been declared safe, Detective Sergeant Herman Lamison said.

Det. Lamison opened the three letters, which were suspicious because they lacked a return address, shortly after three offices within Town Hall were cleared earlier this afternoon. It has been determined that the letters do not pose a threat and all offices within Town Hall have reopened.



UPDATE, Thursday, 1:32 p.m.

Police have no indication that there is anything dangerous emanating from the letters at this point, officials have confirmed.

According to Lt. Mohl, the Suffolk County Emergency Services team was called in purely as a precaution due to recent national events.

"We don't have any indication that there is anything dangerous or anything spilling out of them," Lt. Mohl said. "But in this climate these days we have to treat this kind of thing seriously, so we have Suffolk County Emergency Services coming out."



ORIGINAL STORY

Suspicious items of mail at Southampton Town Hall led to the shutdown of several offices, though not the entire building, early Thursday as hazmat crews, police and firefighters were summoned to deal with the situation.

Three letters delivered to Town Hall attracted suspicion because of the way they were addressed, according to Lieutenant Christopher Mohl of the Southampton Village Police Department. As a precaution, the mail room at Town Hall was shut down, and the human resources and business management office room was secured. There was no evacuation of the building.

Lt. Mohl said there was no visible evidence of hazardous contents, but as a precaution the area was secured and Suffolk County Emergency Services was called to remove the items.

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All this because the letters lacked a return address???
By Miss K. (102), East Quogue on Jun 6, 13 2:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Welcome to Southampton....
By The Royal 'We' (198), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 2:46 PM
The East End is in terrorism's cross-hairs. One week they're taking photographs of a National Guard monument, the next they're sending letters without a return address to our council members! If we don't put a stop to this sort of behavior, it is only a matter of time before they start making rude gestures.
By highhatsize (4176), East Quogue on Jun 6, 13 3:18 PM
Maybe they will even cut off our heads and paste them on body's doing rude things.
By They call me (2788), southampton on Jun 11, 13 10:35 PM
There is probably more to this story IMO.

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."

Arnold H. Glasow
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 3:28 PM
Other sources just reporting do not indicate any additional facts worthy of note.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 4:20 PM
Now, I ask you honestly...what idiot of a troublemaker would send "something dangerous" through the mail WITHOUT including A RETURN ADDRESS?

I don't think that I would be violating federal security laws if I suggested that all troublemakers should put a return address on their envelopes and packages if they expect delivery to occur as planned. Naturally, it would not be their own return address, but given the depths in rank to which our educational system has fallen and the heightened ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Jun 6, 13 4:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Imagine if it had no zip code!! OOOOOOhhhhhhhhh!!!
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 6, 13 4:58 PM
Check the envelopes for fingerprints, and compare them to those on the Dora balloons that landed at Long Beach recently?
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 5:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
The person who was opening the mail did the right thing and I commend him/her. Suspicious and sometimes tainted mail has been showing up at local municipal offices all over the country. Sounds like the detective checked it out, opened the mail and the business as usual. Good to practice protocol too.
Jun 6, 13 5:36 PM appended by KevinLuss
If you can come up with any implications greater than the supervisor having to wait an extra hour for her copy of the Press, then please share. My only suggestion was that it is not our place to judge another human being who felt unsafe in today's climate if her/his job was to open mail in a municipality at minimum wage. The cost of accidentally opening tainted mail vs. the Southampton Town mail room being closed for a hour or so is a no brainer for me.
By KevinLuss (356), Detroit, Michigan on Jun 6, 13 5:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are you suggesting that the arrival of one envelope without a return address is enough to shut down a municipality's mail office? Think through the implications of this, please.

I am curious whether this has been codified in any way in the USPS Regs. or elsewhere?
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 5:49 PM
KevinLuss, in reply to your appended comment above, the facts of this case carry implications (indeed actions) far beyond the benign delay of hour hour etc. that you suggest.

Indeed, here:

"Suspicious items of mail at Southampton Town Hall led to the shutdown of several offices, though not the entire building, early Thursday as hazmat crews, police and firefighters were summoned to deal with the situation.

. . .

"According to Lt. Mohl, the Suffolk County Emergency ...more
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 6:23 PM
The general concern is that by mis-perceiving the level of threat, and overreacting to things like this, we may be taking the terrorists' bait, and allowing fear to compromise our judgment.

The Dora balloon incident at Long Beach illustrates the power of the mind to "see" things which are not in fact happening (parachute, people kicking in the waves, people in the water, etc.).

Have we gone so far around the bend that we want our first responders reacting so quickly to events like ...more
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 6, 13 6:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
Yes I did thank you!
By YouKnowItAll7 (2), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 3:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Haha. Talk about your classic overreaction. Give me a break.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 13 9:25 PM
Does anyone remember last years sighting of lobster claws, and empty wine bottles dumped in the Waldbaums parking lot? One gung ho person driving a village FD tahoe decided he should inform the cops that there is a bomb. They closed the village for hours with cops, fireman, and the bomb squad checking a pile of garbage out. I think there are some people around here waiting for a disaster so they can play hero.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Jun 7, 13 7:49 AM
Most people would be shocked IMO by the combined market value (on the open market) of the assets deployed for:

-- the Waldbaums incident above
-- the Dora balloons at Long Beach recently
-- the Town Hall envelope with no return address

No judgment about the 911 callers, but the costs of these emergency response teams must be kept on the radar screen. Our tax dollars pay for it all, in one way or another.

If we choose to stay blind to the cost side of the equation, ...more
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 9:01 AM
Clarification -- if all emergency services were privatized, what would it have cost to hire private response teams for these events?

Municipalities around the country are going this privatization route, and the costs are shocking. Not to mention that certain rural areas are left without fire and ambulance services, because no private company will cover them.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 9:09 AM
Why didn't you say I was in a discussion with people that actually would suggest that other desire a disaster so they can play hero. I wouldn't have wasted my time.
Jun 7, 13 11:41 AM appended by KevinLuss
Hi there Youknowitall7. Sounds like you were the one in the mailroom that day. Don't listen to these guys. They brag about being so brave as they hide behind fake names and hack away at anyone at any time.
By KevinLuss (356), Detroit, Michigan on Jun 7, 13 11:41 AM
2 members liked this comment
Job justification much?
By Hambone (513), New York on Jun 7, 13 8:51 AM
When tax payer money is used to protect tax payers from whom said tax dollars are generated, it will always be fine for me. Whether it's at a concert in Montauk that is scaring the bejesus out of you or a non event such as this. Hindsight is always 20/20. Safety personnel and the like are employed and paid for in order to carry out the very tasks they completed yesterday. Have you seen the amount of tax dollars collected in Southampton Town? There is enough to go around - and still pay for ...more
By KevinLuss (356), Detroit, Michigan on Jun 7, 13 11:21 AM
Not to mention - the person that called didn't say "please send every bit of emergency personnel possible!". They simply alerted someone of authority to a situation that made them feel uncomfortable. How that situation was handled is up to the various departments. There's protocol for dealing with this stuff.

God forbid there was a harmful substance in the letter or an explosive device in a package - wouldn't you rather have a HazMat team and fire dept's. on hand? Or would you rather ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 13 1:01 PM
Nature, are you suggesting that every time an envelope with no return address shows up, that this level of response is necessary?

NO OTHER dangerous aspect of the envelope or evidence of threat has been cited IMO. Indeed, I believe Det. Sgt. Lamison opened the envelopes before any other agency inspected them. Correct?

Elsewhere a Town Hall employee is quoted as saying this was a tempest in a teapot.

Would you suggest any improvements to the "protocol for dealing with ...more
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 2:30 PM
2 members liked this comment
Absolutely not. But, this person felt that it was a legitimate threat and mentioned it to police. I'm assuming that the police won't take this level of precaution in the future if the same employee (or other Town employee) has the same concern.

My (educated) guess is that personal letters to Town Hall without return addresses are exceedingly rare. To get three (and if they are addressed to council people) is cause for concern, and as the article states based on recent events there is ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 13 4:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
P.S. - don't bother responding. I know it will start with "IMO" and end with "Have a nice weekend"
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 13 4:02 PM
Nice closing attitude!

"All we have to fear is fear itself."

IMO

Have a nice weekend . . .
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 6:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Next time i receive a letter with NO return address,should I call Town Hall,,,,,,just want to be safe,
By Etians rd (542), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 12:12 PM
The level of self-importance that many of these petty goverment officials feel is amazing. Do they REALLY think someone was sending a letter laced with ricin or anthrax to them?
By HB90 (163), southampton on Jun 7, 13 12:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
If an unknown package came to Your house would you open it?? Everyone has something to say about the situation but you weren't the one in it. @KevinLuss thank you I did!!
By YouKnowItAll7 (2), Southampton on Jun 7, 13 3:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
I get unknown packages all the time. The fact remains that this was an overreaction fueled by a feeling of self-importance. Nobody at Town Hall is important enough to be targeted with poisoned letters.
By HB90 (163), southampton on Jun 7, 13 5:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Both the "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign and the NSI underscore the concept that homeland security begins with hometown security. An alert public plays a critical role in keeping our nation safe. Strengthening hometown security involves creating partnerships across numerous states as well as the private sector.

Recent expansions of the "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign include partnerships with numerous sports teams and leagues, transportation agencies, ...more
By KevinLuss (356), Detroit, Michigan on Jun 8, 13 5:43 AM
I see nonsense.
By HB90 (163), southampton on Jun 8, 13 7:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Jun 8, 13 8:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
... Bin Laden was a nut, and the repubs spent four trillion dollars and we lost twice as many Americans than were killed in the WTC chasing him down a destructive path of spending and no accountability.

That four trill' really could have been put to good use easing the burden on the local taxpayer.

By William Rodney (555), southampton on Jun 8, 13 9:07 AM
Sure and when Obama is done it will be another 10 trillion.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Jun 8, 13 1:07 PM
An easy solution going forward is for the USPS never to deliver mail without a return address. Just sayin'

BTW you do realize that we still can't mail packages over a certain weight thanks to a bomber from 20 years ago. I am not for or against but i do marvel at our ability to rail against disappearing personal freedoms at the time only to readily accept them like sheep years later. See passports, TSA, mailing weights, tamper proof seals etc. I'd be these costs in total over the last ...more
By Hambone (513), New York on Jun 10, 13 9:09 AM
Hambone, I'm just taking a quick cut at this without having given it a whole lot of thought. Apart from the loss-of-freedoms angle, and looking only at the cost angle that you pose, say you're right that the "costs" of these various measures has exceeded the cost of any war. I suspect that's a stretch, but let's run with it.

Problem is, the cost of a war includes more than just the dollars expended. Much more, like blood, gore, crippling, lost lives, property damage, shock, battle fatigue, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jun 10, 13 1:57 PM
"easy solution?"

Sounds simple, but the devil may be in the details, and more expensive than the current situation IMO.

-- a real return address?
-- who verifies?
-- who assesses the accuracy of the address?
-- suppose the address has a street name, but no number?
-- suppose the return address is overseas, and/or in a different language?
-- etc.
-- what happens with all the envelopes with no return addresses?
-- does an envelope with an "acceptable" ...more
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Jun 10, 13 2:29 PM
Good points all, PBR. I said I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought.
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jun 10, 13 9:51 PM
I hate to tell you a lot of laced letters had return addresses. Would a crazy nut that sends a laced letter actually put a false address? Its amazing how ignorant some of you really are.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Jun 11, 13 8:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
If the self-serving town board would act in the taxpayers interest instead of pushing down out throats things that do more harm than good, they wouldn't have to be so paranoid as to have a policeman on guard and to panic over any letters. It is so ridiculous it makes me sick !
By Raccoon mom (6), Shelter island on Aug 22, 14 2:20 PM
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