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New Shelter Island TCO takes to the streets

CAITLIN PANARELLA PHOTO Traffic Control Officer Brian Marzo on the job last week.
Traffic Control Officer Brian Marzo on the job last week.

The peace and serenity of Shelter Island is something many residents take for granted, but it’s people like Brian Marzo who are working hard this summer to maintain those qualities.

With a police radio crackling and a windy day finding its way into a Shelter Island police cruiser, the new Traffic Control Officer (TCO) took the Reporter on a brief ride-along one day last week as he made his daily tour of Island streets and roads.

Growing up in Nassau County and a summer resident of Shelter Island since 2001, TCO Marzo has “always had a passion for law enforcement,” he said, and plans to make a career out of it.

The business student and soon-to-be senior at the University of Delaware, TCO Marzo plans to use his background in business to further a career with law enforcement on the federal level, perhaps with the FBI. He wanted to put his “summer to good use,” he said, and so interviewed with Police Chief Jim Read and landed the job as a TCO.

The TCO cruiser, with its dashboard covered with mileage records, papers and ticket pads, set out to travel throughout the Island one day last week, with TCO Marzo on the lookout for traffic violations. The daily work of the TCO includes patrolling the Island’s busier roads, such as Route 114, and the four most popular beaches: Crescent, Shell, Wades and Menhaden.

One of TCO Marzo’s first actions of the day, cruising through Bridge Street, was ensuring that trucks unloading merchandise wouldn’t interfere with regular traffic.

After checking one-hour parking zones by the North Ferry, he headed to the beaches to regulate parking and traffic. Here TCO Marzo will usually work on foot checking parked cars. Vehicles parked at these beaches without a town sticker or an up-to-date inspection are risking tickets. In one-hour parking zones, TCO Marzo will often mark a tire and the pavement with chalk and return to check if the car has moved after an hour, hence the TCO nickname, “chalk guys.”

Nickname or not, the method of chalking ensures that traffic keeps moving and everyone gets a chance to park in areas with shops and other businesses.

Busier days for Mr. Marzo include the Fourth of July, when the Island is flooded with visitors and the ferry lines stretch way beyond normal range. Those days, he said, require more time and effort, with multiple drives to install instructional signs, set up traffic cones and answer calls.

Other events that require extra traffic control are sailing regattas and the annual 10K race. Though these events bring business and excitement to the Island, road traffic and parking would likely become a chaotic guessing game without his and the police department’s efforts.

TCO Marzo said his initial expectations of the job have been exceeded in his just one month on duty. The work has required a greater involvement in the community and, consequently, been more rewarding than he first imagined.

In comparison to the desk job he held last summer at a financial firm, where he said he didn’t see the sun all day, nor experience a tangible result of his work, as a TCO he “can see the job’s benefit to the community, and there’s never a dull moment.”

The sight of the police cruisers and the TCOs patrolling can often be a measure of reassurance for runners, bikers and drivers that law enforcement is ready to provide guidance and protection if needed, TCO Marzo said.

“Just being a presence is important,” he added.

The most baffling thing he sees during his tours? The lack of skill some have parking their cars. But the TCO offers assistance that’s not in his job description, providing a “valet” service, he said, to spare the hapless parkers a ticket for road obstruction.