Cops say arrests are up and recent violence gang-related
Residents of Huntington are calling for an increase in staffing at the Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct in the wake of three separate shootings that occurred in less than a month.
Deputy Inspector William Read assured community members gathered at South Huntington Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 13, that the police force is completely competent in its current size, but residents were not convinced.
“We want to ask for outside help,” Jim McGoldrick, a Huntington Station resident said. “We can’t go on this way, our kids are being shot at.”
Luis Hernandez, 21, Aaron Jolly, 18, and Nelson Hernandez, 22, all survived shootings in the Huntington Station and Greenlawn area in late July and August. Luis Hernandez and Jolly both suffered from gunshot wounds to their legs, and Nelson Hernandez was shot in the back.
“What we’re doing is working, our program is effective, and crime stats are down dramatically,” Read said. “We are having success, but it can’t be 100 percent.”
The police associate many of the recent problems in the area with gangs, and Read said that gang cops have been out undercover investigating these cases constantly. He said there are a number of social programs combatting gang issues as well.
But the crowd argued that not enough is being done, and that more problems are arising.
Lisa MacKenzie, a Huntington resident, asked what the police are doing about the ongoing problem of intoxicated individuals passing out in the streets in Huntington Station.
“Why are these individuals taken to the hospital and not arrested?”
Officer Angela Ferrara explained that it is always the duty of the police and the standard procedure to treat someone medically first. She also noted that this has become a concern in many different areas in Huntington.
“What if I am on Depot Road in the future and hit [someone] who is intoxicated and attempting to cross the street, who will actually get in trouble then?” MacKenzie said. “We need drunk crossing signs, instead of deer crossing signs.”
Residents also complained about the how 911 dispatchers handle calls. Several said in the past, dispatchers have told them to either leave their car or house to get closer to a scene.
“They had the nerve to tell me to flag down one of the patrol cars when I called, and to get out of my car…this is putting the public at risk,” Nicholas Wieland, of The Huntingtonian news website, said. “You guys have some homework to do with the 911 service.”
Robert Finnerty, a Huntington Station resident, brought his son to the meeting, and said he is now afraid to go outside.
“We have people in the street across from us saying ‘I will shoot you in the street, I will kill you,’ and it’s scaring my son,” Finnerty said. He said the residents yelling this are people living in single dwelling homes occupied by five different families.
“We have to go after the overcrowded houses,” McGoldrick said. “It’s not fair to the police officers and fire firefighters. One of the biggest problems is how housing is handled in this town.”
As members of the audience agreed housing is a town issue, not a police one, the tone changed toward a desire to see a change in leadership in Huntington Town. Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (R) were both present at the meeting, as well as Huntington Town Board candidate Jennifer Thompson, a member of the Northport-East Northport school board.
Despite the criticism throughout the night, the 2nd Precinct deputy inspector defended the department’s work.
“We’re covering all our sectors, we’ve been doing it for years,” he said.