Incident in Port Jefferson Village exposes communication failures

Incident in Port Jefferson Village exposes communication failures

Port Jefferson Village Center. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Samantha Rutt

On the evening of May 29, a crime occurred near the village center, shedding light on gaps in the village hall’s communication protocols. The incident has raised questions and concerns among residents and officials about the effectiveness of current systems for public safety notifications.

Incident details

Between 6 and 6:30 p.m., a man who had been stabbed or slashed sought help at the Village Center near Harborfront Park. Covered in blood, the victim’s appearance alarmed bystanders. The assailants were reportedly still at large, fleeing in a white SUV. Suffolk County Police responded with several police cars and retrieved camera footage from the area to aid their investigation.

Compounding the situation, a senior awards ceremony and several sporting events were taking place at the nearby school. Despite the proximity of these events to the crime scene, school leadership was not informed about the incident, raising concerns about the safety and well-being of students and attendees.

Response timeline

Seeking clarity and answers, an email was sent to village officials on May 31. The email was addressed to Mayor Sheprow and trustees Loucks, Juliano, Kassay, and Biondo. All below events are reported from Traci Donnelly’s Facebook page.

May 31, 6:25 p.m.: Initial inquiry sent to village officials.

May 31, 8:26 p.m.: Trustee Loucks responded, indicating he was unaware of any official communication from the village. He learned about the incident from the manager of the village center and noted that more than 50 hours after the incident, trustees had still not been provided with any updates or information.

May 31, 9:11 p.m.: A follow-up email was sent, questioning the lack of community notification.

May 31, 9:32 p.m.: Trustee Biondo responded, suggesting that if the incident were serious enough, the Suffolk County Police Department would have notified the community.

June 1, 7:02 a.m.: A request was made for clear communication protocols and criteria for alert systems.

June 1, 1:51 p.m.: Trustee Biondo advised attending the next public meeting for discussions and deliberation with the trustees. It was reiterated that, according to the village attorney and mayor, public comments are not meant for deliberations.

Several concerns have emerged in the wake of this incident. No public alert was issued, despite the severity of the incident and its proximity to community events, no alert was sent to residents. A lack of real-time information as schools and trustees were not informed in real time. Trustee Loucks learned about the incident from the village center manager and other trustees were also uninformed prior to the email. Additionally, it was made evident there are communication gaps as the current strategy for notifying residents about serious incidents is unclear.

The incident has prompted several questions from concerned residents, in Donnelly’s post she asks “Why wasn’t the incident on May 29 considered a public safety issue warranting a Code Red alert? Who decides when these alerts are issued and who is on the village’s emergency response team? Were all trustees informed of the incident in real time?”

The community is calling for increased transparency and the development of a comprehensive communication plan with public input. Residents are encouraged to email trustees directly for accurate information and to avoid relying on social media for critical updates.

“It is important to have communication between village officials and residents. We are looking to wirk alongside residents to have an effective emergency response system in place,” village trustee Rebecca Kassay said.

The email exchange regarding this incident is available upon request for anyone interested in complete transparency.