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Feb 10, 2011 9:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Hopes To Relieve 'Number 1' Problem

Feb 10, 2011 9:53 AM

For Southampton Village, could a public nuisance evolve into a new stream of revenue?

Legislation has been proposed that, if adopted, would allow Southampton Village Police to charge people who urinate or defecate in public with a village code violation, rather than a state law violation. The move, according to proponents, would simply streamline prosecution and help crack down on a so-called “quality of life” offense.

Court officials, meanwhile, say that charging violators under the village code could increase the amount of money the village rakes in through fines. Currently, only a small fraction of the total fine winds up in village coffers, with the majority going to the state court system.

Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said his department filed 155 charges for disorderly conduct in 2010, the charge typically levied against people who are caught urinating in public. The total, however, was not limited to public urination and includes other types of offenses, including fighting and excessive noise.

The chief said the number of disorderly conduct charges in the village ranges from about 155 to 200 annually, with most occurring during the summer, and in places where commercial areas neighbor residential ones. Aldrich Lane and North Sea Road near the 7-Eleven convenience store and McDonald’s, the area around Railroad Plaza and the Long Island Rail Road station, Elm Street, and the business district are the most popular spots for public urination, he said.

Last spring, the owners of the 7-Eleven, which has no indoor restrooms, removed two portable toilets on the property after a request from the corporate branch to spruce up the lot. In the immediate weeks following, many men were charged with disorderly conduct for urinating in public view in the 7-Eleven parking lot, according to Village Police reports.

“It’s not the crime of the century,” Chief Wilson said, “but it’s a quality-of-life issue.”

Chief Wilson last month asked the Village Board to consider amending the portion of the village code that deals with “peace and good order” to include banning public urination and defecation. Southampton Village Attorney Richard DePetris is expected to draft the legislation. Once finalized, a public hearing on the matter would be scheduled before the board made a decision on the proposed law.

“There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets that are issued for public urination on a yearly basis, and it’s starting to clog up the dockets—no pun intended,” the chief told the Village Board in January, referring to dozens of East End justice courts. He said the request stemmed from earlier discussions with the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

If Village Police can charge offenders under village code rather than the state penal law, he said, the local court could gain more control. It could also potentially ease a court backlog. Instead of offenders being prosecuted by the county DA’s office, they could be prosecuted by village prosecutor Richard Fernan. The chief said he believes his request would help free up the justice court, which hears criminal complaints on Monday mornings, as the public urination offenses could be lumped in with other code violations that are prosecuted on Monday afternoons.

Mr. Fernan could not be reached for comment this week.

According to Southampton Village Court Justice Barbara Wilson, the fine for disorderly conduct cannot exceed $250. It also carries a mandatory surcharge of $125. All of the surcharge goes to the state, and only a small portion of the actual fine stays in the village, with the majority going to the state and other agencies, she said. She believes 100 percent of the money would go to the village if the violation was charged under the village code.

If the offense becomes part of village code, it would become punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and 15 days in jail, although such a stiff penalty would remain highly unlikely, according to the chief. It would simply be the same as for other village code violations, which already include prohibitions against smoking and drinking alcohol in certain public places in the village.

But the chief and Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said they consider the driving force behind the change a public benefit, not an economic one.

“For me, it’s not about the financial gain to the village, it’s all about having the strength within our own code to protect and preserve quality-of-life issues,” the mayor said.

Although he dismissed the idea that the change could be a revenue generator, he did note, “It’s our police officers who make the stop. It’s our justice court who processes it. It’s our attorney that stands in front of the judge to prosecute the individual. So it’s all the village taxpayers and the state takes a large portion of that away.”

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Of all of the quality of life issues facing Southampton they want to fine someone $1,500 for urinating outside? Just when you think you've heard it all -
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Feb 10, 11 10:15 AM
Yeah, wait till the 7-11 comes to Amagansett - they are getting it ready right under our noses. You will see the quality of life DRASTICALLY change in this little shopping center in less than a year. The downward spiral will begin when the day laborers start assembling there at dawn for work, and the problems will only continue to escalate.
By SisBoomBonacker (106), Hamptons on Feb 10, 11 10:17 AM
When ya gotta go, ya gotta go..just not outside!
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Feb 10, 11 10:24 AM
Does this Village actually think that these people who are given tickets will go and pay them? What's their incentive? Many of them aren't legal residents of NY State and they don't have the $$$ to be paying fines. With no drivers licenses (and often no cars) many of them would never be pulled over or have other run-ins with the police that would reveal outstanding tickets.

How about the village builds a cheap bathroom and charges people 50 cents or something to use it.... problem ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 10, 11 11:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
If there is a public urination problem in the Village then put in more municipal toilets.
There are only two municipal toilets that I'm aware of: the one behind the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street and the other at Agawam Park, and these are not always open 24/7.

Additionally, merchants in the Village should be more friendly to their clients when we need to use the toilet. How many of us have been told to go the CoC ones? Really you want my business, but can't provide me with a ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 10, 11 12:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
Note: I think Police Officers time might also be better used if the municipal toilets are deployed. Think of the savings in Police time and overtime that will be saved from their not having to spend time on such matters. It may not just be a question of enhancing the "revenue stream" but also looking to cut the costs of enforcement. On balance is it cheaper to rent toilets or to pay officers to deal with these problems?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 10, 11 1:37 PM
Lets say the average cop earns $50/hr (not including benefits) and the average Village or County Attorney makes $40/hr (not including benefits), and the average Village or County Judge makes $45/hr (not including benefits) and it takes 3 hours of time to write/process/decide each ticket. Taxpayers are on the hook for a minimum of almost $450 for a ticket that would probably never exceed $150.... what a W-A-S-T-E
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 10, 11 2:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
You can't make this stuff up?

You're in luck!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 10, 11 8:10 PM
Have you ever noted the level of respect those "Port O Pots" receive, at the local beach?

People destroy them, and treat them unspeakably, some even defecating like wild animals, without being seated. (use your imagination)

The problem is not the lack of them, 7-11 did at one time, it is the LACK OF RESPECT for the facilitations. They "went away", because persons had not the ability to treat them respectfully. People are animals after all, and in more ways than I can count, ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 13, 11 2:34 PM
Wouldn't it be cheaper to build restrooms and pay an attendant to care for the building and have an emergency line to call the police only if there was a problem(drug use for example)?
If the owners of the " for customer use only" stores and the people who run the Village had to take water tabs for high blood pressure they might be a little more sensitive.
I don't see why 7-11 corporate branch thinks it is attractive to have a smelly parking lot- surely the portable toilets were better ...more
By consciencepoint (16), Southampton on Feb 10, 11 3:15 PM
This policy, obviously, discriminates against men - call the ACLU.
By Candide08 (8), Sag Harbor on Feb 10, 11 4:22 PM
The is hilarious. The 7-11 franchisee, smelling a perceived need, puts in a couple of port-a-johns. Corporate 7-11 says its bad for their image (They want to be known as a convenient place to buy the micturatatious elixir rather than a place conveniently to dispose of it.), so they make the franchisee take them out.

The unscrupulous micturators then utilize the streets resulting in dozens (hundreds[?]) of arrests by the pd. The pd says the answer is bigger crimes and bigger fines. Yeah! ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 10, 11 5:35 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 10, 11 7:37 PM
No one has been arrested for being a public "micturator" (how long have you been waiting to show that word off on 27east?).

You have enough reasons to Harp on the PD, don't start making stuff up
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 11, 11 12:23 PM
"Blah, blah, blah, I hate the police . . . blah, blah, blah, dumb police, blah, blah, blah, police are dumb . . . blah, blah, blah . . ." Yes, highhatsize, we get it.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Feb 11, 11 1:01 PM
to Nature:
to Nature:

“'There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets that are issued for public urination on a yearly basis, and it’s starting to clog up the dockets—no pun intended,' the chief told the Village Board. . . "

"If the offense becomes part of village code, it would become punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and 15 days in jail. . ."
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 11, 11 1:22 PM
to fcmcmann:

No, you do not. (Read Chief Wilson's comment for a "hint".)
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 11, 11 1:23 PM
I don't see it as 7-11's responsibility to provide portable toilets. There is a park there. Seems perfectly logical to put public toilets in a park. Is there a grounds for lawsuit if the municipality places a toilet in one of its parks?

Furthermore, when are they going to develop that land into a park as they are supposed to?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 11, 11 1:35 PM
Ah, the joys of selective quotation!

"If the offense becomes part of village code, it would become punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and 15 days in jail, although such a stiff penalty would remain highly unlikely, according to the chief."

You HONESTLY believe people would be thrown into jail for pubic urination? Maybe if it was L. Kabot but otherwise....

And does someone really need to explain the difference to you between "tickets" and "arrests"?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 11, 11 1:55 PM
to highhatsize: Yes she does. (read your own comments for a "hint")
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Feb 11, 11 1:55 PM
The only thing the Chief is guilty of is exaggeration.

He said, "his department filed 155 charges for disorderly conduct in 2010, the charge typically levied against people who are caught urinating in public."

Then followed that up by saying, “There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets that are issued for public urination on a yearly basis, and it’s starting to clog up the dockets—no pun intended,”

Umm...sounds like there aren't ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 11, 11 2:03 PM
My oh my, where does one begin to post a comment about this absurdity?

Chief Wilson
Mayor Epley
Attorney DePetris
Editor Shaw ("New Stream of Revenue" ??? !!!!)

Make My Month and Year of 2011 !

"Penal Law' ??? !!!!

To quote from the article:

"If Village Police can charge offenders under village code rather than the state penal law, he said, the local court could gain more control."

"Gain control?" -- by what, rushing the offender ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 10, 11 7:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
You're in luck. [pun intended]
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 10, 11 7:38 PM
The screen shot is, so to speak, caught in midstream!

If the comment above is deleted, please consult the editors.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 10, 11 8:13 PM
This is a plot to get Epley's father in law a contract to build more public toilets
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Feb 10, 11 8:59 PM
Short of adding a public convenience to the store itself, port-a-johns may be the only solution. Stand-alone public restrooms, unless constantly monitored, become homosexual trysting venues. The port-a-johns are too small to accommodate an assignation (unless Americans with Disabilities demands a handicapped-enabled port-a-john). I remember that when Ed Koch was mayor of NYC he claimed that it would be cheaper to assign a chauffeured automobile to every disabled resident than to make all public ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 13, 11 2:58 PM
Besides being too small for an assignation one would have to be concerned about the effects from the agitation that would occur. It would not be a discreet venue...So I've been told.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 14, 11 11:39 AM
Homophobe much?

Any couple seeking a copulas thrill, heterosexual, or homosexual seek trysts in many places, especially if the have some type of public fetish.

Seriously, expand your scope of vision a bit. It would greatly behoove you.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 19, 11 12:28 PM
Socialist Government at its worst. First taxpayer-funded bailouts, Death Panels and mandatory health insurance for all. Now they're attacking our God-given right to express ourselves through public defecation.

Where does it end?
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on Feb 16, 11 10:22 PM
"revenue stream",,,,please help me shake this rather disquieting mental image
By loading... (601), quiogue on Feb 18, 11 9:38 PM
This almost as good as the law "not allowed to wear hot pants in the commercial area of the Village"
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Feb 20, 11 6:04 PM