A perennial reader favorite. Immensely popular. A riot.
These are just some of the phrases that national news outlets have used to describe police blotter columns published in small-town newspapers nationwide. The Fire Island News police blotter similarly chronicles small crime on the slender riotous barrier island, with reporters often unearthing comedic gold in police officers’ narratives of various local shenanigans that rarely rose to the level of anything felonious, but trigger 911 calls nonetheless. The most absurd incidents occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when beach season crowds are at their rowdiest.
“You can tell a lot about a town by observing how police officers spend their day,” The Washington Post’s Jaime Fuller wrote in an ode to American police blotters and the oddball behavior within. Vanity Fair‘s recap of the most ludicrous police blotters from the Hamptons noted, “‘Out East’ became more like the Wild West.”
For more than a decade I had the pleasure of making regular visits to the Suffolk County police Marine Bureau station house at Timber Point in Great River to compile the blotters for the News. The boat cop unit that patrols Fire Island was among the last — if not the last — in the Suffolk police department that still had officers write incident reports longhand on paper to detail what they found upon responding to calls. By comparison, the smaller Ocean Beach Police Department that patrols the island’s largest village compiles its incidents in an old-school log book.
The incident reports reveal officers’ first-hand accounts of the sometimes gritty, but often ridiculous reasons they get called. The reports many times proved so silly that the Fire Island Tide won a Press Club of Long Island humor column award for their take on the Marine Bureau police blotters. The News’ old blotters in the paper’s earlier days often treated each 911 call like the crime of the century, chasing down details of high society’s missing wagons as if it were the JonBenét Ramsey case, an old editor recalled.
Unfortunately, about three years ago, technology finally caught up with the Marine Bureau. After noticing what seemed to be a drop in incidents in 2017, I first suspected that maybe the cancellation of the 1 a.m. ferry that summer resulted in fewer police reports. But police confirmed that officers were transitioning to a computer-based incident report filing system — a transition that is now complete.
The result? Marine Bureau blotters dried up for a couple summers in the News. This summer they’re back, but missing the raw officers’ accounts. Instead they offer a more cut-and-dry recap lacking the spicy details captured in the old paper-based, handwritten reports.
For old time’s sake, here is a greatest hits of some of the most curious crimes that the Marine Bureau has responded to in the past decade:
A woman reported a naked, dripping-wet man knocking on the door of her Ocean Walk home in Fire Island Pines at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, 2008.
The case was certainly not the only one involving nudity, but it’s a tie for one of the most shocking.
A Davis Park man reported walking into his East Walk home and finding his refrigerator open, clothes on the floor, and a highly intoxicated naked man who had been renting a house nearby coming out of the bathroom at 12 p.m. Sept 1, 2014. The man told the complainant that he loved him, got dressed, and left.
More often than not, the most absurd blotters involved alcohol, such as people calling police to report they got kicked out of a bar or a homeowner finding a drunken person walked into the wrong house and fell asleep on their couch. But this boozy blotter item rose above them all:
A 46-year-old woman reported that her husband, who was intoxicated, lost a 12 pack of beer at 8:16 p.m. May 25, 2009.
Reports of people having sex on the beach were also a semi-regular blotter item. But most scandalous was this couple that apparently couldn’t get a room:
A 48-year-old Ocean Bay Park woman reported that a man and a woman were performing a lewd act on her garbage cans in front of her Champlain Walk home at 11 p.m. on Aug. 14, 2010. Suspects gone prior to police arrival.
Sometimes pranks make it into the blotters, like this one:
A Kismet woman reported four youths knocked on the door of her Seabay Walk home and said they were delivering a pizza at 8:57 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2012. The woman said she didn’t order a pizza, opened the box and found it to be full of insects. The children fled with the box and were gone upon police arrival.
More often than not, officers are called to be the fun police. That’s especially the case on Labor Day weekend, when people go all out trying to squeeze the last parties out of summer:
An Ocean Bay Park man reported an unknown woman dancing on his desk on Bay Walk at 12:10 a.m. on Sept 3, 2012.
While officers are often dealing with minor incidents on the beach, occasionally they get calls about incidents that suggest a genuine mystery:
A Pennsylvania detective told Suffolk police that a man called an elderly couple and said “I’m calling from a dead girl’s phone,” which they found strange and threatening, before the man hung up at 11 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2012. Marine Bureau officers checked Holly Walks in Cherry Grove and Fair Harbor for signs of a man at one of the two addresses listed for him. No sign of occupants on either block.
Officers regularly respond to calls that sound serious at first and turn out to be nothing. This one epitomized that scenario:
An anonymous 911 caller reported a man unconscious but breathing at a home on Pine Walk in Fire Island Pines at 8:50 p.m. May 29, 2017. Officers found the man sleeping on his couch with his dog. Man said he did not need police assistance.
It being Fire Island, many of the calls involve wildlife, like this apparent emergency situation:
A 77-year-old Ocean Ridge man reported that a raccoon was sitting on a bench on Spindrift Walk at 5 p.m. June 3, 2016. Raccoon returned to the woods upon officers’ arrival.
Wildlife encounters are not always harmless, even when there is no ill will:
A 54-year-old East Moriches woman reported that she suffered an allergic reaction after petting and hugging a deer at the ferry dock in Ocean Beach at 8:35 p.m. on August 12, 2016. Victim taken via police boat to Timber Point, where she was transferred to an ambulance that took her to Southside Hospital.
But most rare of all was this blotter item in which an officer filed an incident report that suggests the cop found the same inspiration on the beach that has drawn countless artists and writers over the decades. Don’t expect to find a blotter like this — my personal favorite — ever again:
A poetic police officer penned this rhyme after finding a seal on the beach in Lonelyville at 9:20 a.m. on April 17, 2017. “Upon the beach I found a seal, which at first wasn’t a big deal. It looked like it was stuck in a groove, maybe he couldn’t move. An idea was born. I sounded my horn. He was put into motion and swam back to the ocean. The end.”
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