June 28, 2006

Getting Tough On Crime

The East Hampton Town Supervisor made a lot of waves last week when he announced a series of busts targeting illegal share houses.

The criticism leveled was because the houses were all inhabited by Latinos, though Mr. Bill McGintee promised the other kinds of group houses, the kind inhabited by wealthy yuppies during the summer season, would also be subject to scrutiny.

It's important to realize, in the case of the Latinos, that they are the victims of the landlords who charged them as much as $700 a month for a mattress. Victims because many did not even know what they were doing was illegal. It is the landlords, Mr. McGintee stressed, who will have to pay for their indiscretions.

There was an outcry in some quarters that the town had an obligation to find alternate housing for those displaced. This is one of those pie-in-the-sky reactions that have no basis in reality. If the town had at its disposal alternate means of housing, the Latinos wouldn't have had to reside in group rentals to begin with.

A housing policy can't be effective if those caught living illegally are rewarded with legal dwellings when apprehended. Such a policy would actually encourage more illegal borders.

Let's face it, the rural East End has no place for single family dwellings housing a dozen (and sometimes many more) people who don't belong there. It disturbs the tranquility of a neighborhood, the houses often become eyesores, traffic is often intolerable, the quality of life — the one thing all of us here seem to cherish — is greatly diminished.

This is a national issue, and a solution can only come from Washington. But we believe Mr. McGintee is on firm ground here. In fact, we urge him to take it one step further and target the contractors who illegally hire day laborers, and thus encourage more to come into the town in search of work.

Every contractor should, as a condition of licensing, swear that every employee is insured and on the books. Violators should not be allowed to do business with the town.

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