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Nov 7, 2008 12:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach hires new officer, pulls another off Suffolk County drug task force

Nov 7, 2008 12:42 PM

The Westhampton Beach Police Department will hire a new officer next month, and a second officer is set to rejoin the force before the end of the year after serving with Suffolk County’s drug task force—though village officials maintain that the staff changes are not in response to an armed robbery and a recent rash of attempted burglaries in the municipality.

Additionally, a third police officer, who was injured in the line of duty, is scheduled to return to the village force before the end of November. As of January 1, 2009, the village department should boast 16 police officers, which is still two fewer than a fully staffed department, according to Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean.

Mayor Conrad Teller and Village Board members appointed the new officer, 22-year-old Mark Yakaboski of Westhampton Beach, at their meeting last Thursday evening. Officer Yakaboski will earn about $47,000 per year, plus benefits.

“I’m absolutely happy that we have a new officer,” Chief Dean said on Monday. “It will give me additional staffing and fill the void in our manpower.”

At the same meeting, Village Board members authorized the police department to spend $31,000 on a new Dodge Durango. The cost of the vehicle will be paid over three years, according to Chief Dean.

After last week’s meeting, Mr. Teller said the village decided about two months ago to demand that the officer now serving on the East End Drug Task Force, a county agency charged with monitoring the illicit drug trade on the North and South forks, return to the village department. Mr. Teller declined to identify the officer by name.

The hiring of Officer Yakaboski, and the return of the officer serving on the drug task force, will not affect the village tax rate, according to the mayor. Mr. Teller said the salary for the new officer is already included in this year’s police department budget.

The new hiring, as well as the pending reassignment, comes only weeks after the owner of the Post Stop Cafe on Main Street in Westhampton Beach was robbed at gunpoint by two masked men who made off with an undisclosed amount of cash. No arrests have been made in that incident, which prompted several local business owners to hold a meeting the next day and demand that village officers have a greater presence on Main Street in the fall and winter months.

Two weeks after the armed robbery, two men tried to break into Magic’s Pub, also on Main Street, while the manager of the Fruit King on Montauk Highway in the village called authorities on November 2 after someone pried open the front door of the farm stand and stole an unknown amount of money from the cash register.

On Friday, Mr. Teller, a former Southampton Town and Westhampton Beach police chief, said the decision to hire Officer Yakaboski was not in response to those incidents. “There was no main reason why we hired him,” Mr. Teller said of Officer Yakaboski.

Rather, the mayor explained that the village department, at the present time, only has 13 active officers and that the Village Board agreed to fill an empty position. “We’ll have 16 total men on the force by the end of the year,” Mr. Teller said.

In previous interviews, Chief Dean has said that a fully staffed department should have 18 officers. However, two officers retired over the summer and a third is scheduled to retire in February, reducing the department staff to 13 officers, according to Chief Dean. The new hire, combined with the return of the two officers, will increase the staff to 16 officers.

Though he would prefer that an officer continue to serve on the East End Drug Force, Chief Dean said that officer’s service is needed in the village at this time.

“It was an agreement I made with the mayor,” Chief Dean said. “[The officer’s] work on the task force is valuable to the East End and the village itself. He’s been doing a lot of drug investigations in the confines of the village.

“I believe in it,” he continued. “I hope at some point he will return back to task force.”

Chief Dean emphasized that most crime is rooted in drug activity, and that is why it is important to have a village officer serving on task force.

The news of the new officer hiring pleased some merchants in Westhampton Beach.

Denise Kerrigan Perfido, the owner of DeeAngelo’s Pleasant Avenue Cafe on Main Street in the village, said she thinks it’s “great” that there will be more police officers on the force. Ms. Perfido organized last month’s merchant meeting, held following the armed robbery at the Post Stop Cafe.

“They positively responded to our comments and concerns,” Ms. Perfido said. “We’re very appreciative of that.

“We’ll absolutely feel more safe,” Ms. Perfido added.

Additionally, Village Police officers are now offering their assistance to local business owners who request that the police department assess the security of their stores and restaurants. Business owners on Main Street in the village have until the end of the month to make an appointment for an officer to inspect the premises and offer advice.

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Why take an officer off of the drug task force? Does that mean there isn't a drug problem in Westhampton anymore? Go to any of the local pubs after midnight and let me know if it's all clean?
By Change up (4), WHB on Nov 9, 08 8:56 AM
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