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Man, woman in blue keep Shelter Island running

CAITLIN PANARELLA PHOTO Robert Hitscherich and Desirae Hubbard, the Island’s newest traffic control officers, about to leave police headquarters for a day’s work.
CAITLIN PANARELLA PHOTO Robert Hitscherich and Desirae Hubbard, the Island’s newest traffic control officers, about to leave police headquarters for a day’s work.

After grabbing a muffin or coffee from the squad room, the Shelter Island Police Department’s summer traffic control officers (TCOs) head out these summer mornings from headquarters in the Center, arriving at the most popular beaches around the same time as many Islanders.

Summer TCOs fill the important function of managing seasonal parking regulations and helping an increased Island population, according to Detective Sergeant Jack Thilberg. TCOs check parking permits at the beaches, “chalk” car tires to ensure time limits on parking are observed and direct traffic during busy events, such as the 10K and the Fourth of July. They also are available to answer questions from visitors and Islanders alike.

Joining the department this summer for the first time as TCOs are Desirae Hubbard and Robert Hitscherich. Between the three Shelter Island TCOs — the third is Brian Marzo, back for his second summer and profiled in the Reporter last year — the work is evenly split day-to-day.

Brian, the veteran, is making $14 an hour and Robert and Desirae are making $13 an hour.

Robert, who will be a freshman at Villanova University in the fall, plans to major in biology with a possible business minor. In terms of career plans, Robert plans to use his biology major to become a veterinarian. A summer resident of Shelter Island since childhood, he lives in Nassau County.

“Shelter Island has been a big part of my life,” he said. He recalled summers here and other jobs he’s had on the Island, including working at the Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy.

Having seen TCOs on patrol while he spent summer days at Crescent Beach, Robert said his own friendly interactions with them drew him to the job.

Desirae, a Mattituck native, will be a junior this fall at the University of New Haven. She’s currently pursuing forensic science with a dual major in biology. When asked about a possible future in law enforcement, she said she aspires to work for the Suffolk County Police Department’s crime lab.

Desirae was attracted to the summer position with the Police Department because, “I wanted to establish relationships with police officers, since that will be a big part of my future.”

One aspect of the job both Robert and Desirae appreciate in particular is being involved with the Island community.

“A big part [of the job] is the community relationships you are establishing,” Desirae said. Robert echoed this sentiment, adding, “Complete strangers will pass by and wave to you.”

Working outside on a beautiful island is also a perk, they both said.

When asked about the busier Island events, particularly the Fourth of July, Desirae termed them, “learning experiences.” Both TCOs commented on taking pride in the responsibility of ensuring everyone’s safety.

It turns out that a day in the life of a TCO is not lacking in entertainment. When giving tickets for parking violations or expired registrations and inspections, Robert and Desirae recalled and laughed over how they’ve heard “every excuse in the book.”

“One of the ones you hear the most is, ‘My inspection is in the glove compartment,’” said Desirae. One driver, she added, even asked to take a picture of her with the inspection for a better chance of fighting the ticket.

The hardest place to give a ticket, they agreed, is Crescent Beach, since “everyone can see you,” and sometimes “they just come running.”

For the most part, they amended, people are cooperative, courteous and respectful once they explain the situation.

As Robert and Desirae wrap up another day, heading back to headquarters around 5 p.m., their ticket book might be a little lighter, but they have the satisfaction that the Island is definitely safer.