Hamptons Police Department detectives are reporting that the original Dongan Patent—a 1686 document giving the public access to local waterways and shorelines—was stolen during a daring and complex heist in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Members of the Hamptons Trustees, who are tasked with upholding the Dongan Patent’s laws, say the theft may be part of a larger conspiracy.
After some first-rate investigative work, including examination of the scene and multiple interviews with guards at the East End Archive Museum, detectives conclude that at least four burglars made off with the more than 330-year-old pages at around 3 a.m. Wednesday. Because the thieves used such stealth and precision, no even one realized the historic record was gone until well after 2 p.m. that afternoon.
“This was a professional crew, the likes of which we rarely, if ever, see in these parts,” Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch said on Thursday. “While a driver waited outside, a team of three crooks hacked into the museum’s security system, rerouted cameras to a looping feed and cut a hole in the glass skylight so they could infiltrate via ropes,” he continued. “Once inside, the perpetrators dodged all laser motion detection devices, cut into the Dongan Patent’s climate controlled display case and removed the document—as I said, these were total pros.”
With the patent now gone, wealthy oceanfront homeowners have already begun filing challenges to longstanding rules giving the public rights to the beaches in front of their properties. Some in the community are saying these landowners are the very people who commissioned the burglary.
“I don’t care, I’ll say it—all of these folks attempting to roll back the rights of our freeholders are behind this egregious crime,” Hamptons Trustee Reggie “Bubs” Malone said on Thursday. “That document ain’t worth enough for such a skilled team of bandits to come here and take it,” Malone added. “This is about rich folks trying to keep us deplorables from sullying their precious beaches. Just because the original is gone, doesn’t mean the Dongan Patent don’t stand. It’s not like we don’t have copies. This law is on the books.”
The army of attorneys descending on Hamptons Municipal Court is saying otherwise. “Without the original document, the Trustees and local freeholders cannot prove the validity of these laws,” Jamie Morrison Hughes, a lawyer said, explaining his case. “We are petitioning the court to bar all future trespassers from using or traversing my clients’ land.”
Hamptons Police detectives are applying all available resources to this case, and they expect to have answers soon. “We will track down the Dongan Patent and return it to its rightful place in the East End Archive Museum,” Hirsch said. “This is a top priority.”