Security chic: Is the militarization of the Hamptons undermining its charm?

Sep.September 02, 2017 12:33 PM

If you attended any events, parties or galas in the Hamptons this season, this is old news. You’ve seen the police armed with large, automatic rifles stationed around the perimeter of the tent. While some argue that the presence of anti-terrorism police in the Hamptons is a necessary precaution, others see the militarization of the Hamptons as a sort of last straw.

On the face of it, spending big bucks to send anti-terrorism police to swank parties is pretty strange. Southampton hasn’t ever suffered a terrorist attack. And Steven Skrynecki, Southampton’s police chief, told the media that when the guards were first dispatched, there hadn’t been so much as a hint of a threat. So why exactly are they there?

“Many of the people at Southampton events are symbols of American affluence and success and capitalism,” Skrynecki tells Bloomberg. “At the same time, there is an abundance of freedom of expression and morals and dress. The attendees’ beliefs might be contrary to the known ideology of terrorist groups.”

He added that because so many wealthy liberals live in the Hamptons, the possibility that someone on the “ultra right” could attack is high.

However, Bloomberg notes that it seems odd to protect a Chamber music concert and not an overcrowded train station on Labor Day weekend.

“There’s another, more plausible reason Southampton has a 15-person counterterrorism squad,” Bloomberg writes. ‘Skrynecki, it would seem, has caught militarization fever, a disease that too many of his fellow police chiefs have also come down with. It is disease that will soon spread further, now that President Donald Trump has agreed to give local police forces renewed access to surplus military equipment, something Barack Obama’s administration had restricted after the clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. Police officers are being transformed into soldiers.”

And that sucks if you are attracted to the Hamptons specifically because its not Penn Station, where armed terrorism police glower at passersby.

So are the Hamptons losing their charm in the wake of militarized police force? Maybe that is in the eye of the beholder. But at the very least, Bloomberg argues that it’s an obvious waste of resources.

“If you do the math,” says security expert Bruce Schneier, “the odds of a terrorist attack at one of these events is infinitesimal. You would do more good screening for drunk drivers. But that isn’t sexy.” [Bloomberg]Christopher Cameron

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