The Hamptons Police Department announced this week—following the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day weekend—that the inaugural seasonal patrols by its military-surplus Virginia-class submarine were a resounding success.
“Incidents of BWI [boating while intoxicated] are down more than 30 percent and the number of surprise boater safety inspections was up 400 percent, resulting in greater compliance with life-saving laws and regulations,” HPD spokesman Larry Hirsh said.
While the acquisition of a former U.S. Navy submarine came under harsh criticism by fiscal watchdogs and groups opposed to the militarization of police departments, Hirsh said the results demonstrate the submarine is worth the expense.
While the vessel, itself, was compliments of the federal government, the staffing and maintenance are the responsibility of the local municipality—and Hamptons taxpayers.
Pressed on the bill for the summer, Hirsh said, “Nevermind the cost. We can afford it.”
On the day after Labor Day, known by locals as “Tumbleweed Tuesday,” the police department began the process to dry-dock the submarine, dubbed Jaws VIII, for the off-season. Hirsh said the sub will return to the water no later than Memorial Day 2016 for another summer of marine patrols.
According to Hirsh, Jaws VIII‘s effectiveness in keeping the Hamptons safe is unparalleled and could not be accomplished by any boat or ship. And not only is the submarine a deterrent to criminals, he added, it is also a tourist attraction. Many Hamptons visitors this summer called the police department ahead of weekends to find out when and where they could see the submarine, though Hirsh noted that if police gave away the location, the submarine would lose the element of surprise.
“Some clown on the Internet tried to convince everyone the submarine was a hoax—something some bored writer just made up,” Hirsh scoffed. “Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s a submarine! The whole point is you can’t see it until it’s too late to do anything about it.”
Many boaters learned that lesson the hard way this summer. The Hamptons Police Department Submarine Unit (HPDSU) made its first arrest June 7, busting an overcrowded pleasure boat off Montauk Point. The carousing boaters were hit with a bevy of charges, including boating under the influence, indecent exposure, harassment and possession of controlled substances, along with several boating violations, such as failure to carry required safety equipment, reckless operation and failure to display validation sticker.
The dramatic scene was captured by an aerial photographer who happened to be in the area shooting Montauk real estate at the time.
The HPDSU also had its hiccups this summer, most notably a failed attempt to traverse the Shinnecock Canal in order to patrol Peconic Bay. Jaws VIII became stuck in the narrow canal on the morning of August 3 and stayed wedged there until the tide came in four hours later. The pricey submarine only suffered cosmetic damage in the incident. “It’s nothing a little paint can’t fix,” Hirsh said at the time. “Remember, this was originally a Navy vessel, designed to sustain torpedo attacks.” The real damage was to the police department’s ego.
“When are people going to let that go?” Hirsh said this week.