By Marissa Maier
On Sunday, January 25, a noose was found hanging from a tree along a secluded hiking trial in Sagaponack near the Long Island Power Authority right-of-way. It is yet to be determined whether this incident is connected to the noose found in almost the same area in October 2008. The Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit is currently handling the case.
According to Suffolk County Detective Sergeant Robert Reecks, a man walking his dog on Sunday morning noticed the noose. The location of the incident was within the jurisdiction of the Southampton Town Police. Police officers processed the scene and removed the noose from its location. In accordance with new legislation pertaining to hate crimes, Southampton Police later deferred the case to the county.
The legislation was enacted in response to a noose discovered on October 27, hanging 20 feet above the ground from a LIPA tower. Prompted by the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, Southampton Town Police Chief James Overton developed a formal procedure for investigating hate crimes within the town. The procedure stipulates that hate crimes will be handled by the county.
Det. Sgt. Reecks said the rope from the noose would be tested for trace evidence to see if it shares any similarities with the first noose. Reecks added that it is difficult to determine the motive behind the incident and who planted the noose because of the remote location of the crime scene. There is only one residence near the site and the trails are often impassable during the winter. The trails by the LIPA right-of-way are out of sight from the roads and are “deep in the woods” said Reecks. Two county detectives visited the site on Tuesday morning and were forced to use four-wheel drive in order to reach the location.
If a suspect is found and if the noose was planted with the intent of threatening another based on their race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation, the suspect would face charges of aggravated harassment in the first degree, a felony.
“It isn’t really a hate crime at this point,” said Det. Sgt. Reecks. “Right now I have a noose hanging in the woods and we are investigating it at face value. [At the moment,] we are looking at this as an incident versus a crime.”
In response to the incident, Southampton Town Councilwoman and liaison to the town’s Anti-bias Task Force Anna Throne-Holst said “It is obviously a disturbing thing to find a second noose in such a short time . . . I think no matter what happens, it is important that we are investigating this and sending the message that we are a community on notice. This is an opportunity to send a message to the perpetrator that we don’t accept this behavior and that it is not a joke.”