After a slew of violent incidents in Huntington Station, town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) has proposed using park rangers to help monitor the area and improve security.
In the past two months, Suffolk County Police Department has publicly reported two dead bodies found in Huntington and three shootings in the area. Residents have asked officials at town board meetings for resolutions to the safety issue.
According to town spokesman A.J. Carter, the town plans to hire three to four park rangers, who would be recently retired or active but off-duty policemen and have the same powers as peace officers.
Although their jurisdiction specifically would be town parks, Carter said the park rangers would be allowed to intervene if they see activity on the roads or other areas outside the parks.
Huntington Station borders the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve, where the body of a young woman was found in 2013, and includes the following parks within the neighborhood: Gateway Park on New York Avenue at Lowndes Avenue; Manor Field Park on East 5th Street; Depot Road Park; and Fair Meadows Park on East Pulaski Road and Park Avenue.
According to New York State criminal procedure law, peace officers can make warrantless arrests, use physical force to make an arrest or prevent an escape, carry out warrantless searches with probable cause and issue appearance tickets, among other powers. They can also carry firearms and take away weapons from people who do not have the proper licenses to carry.
All peace officers in New York need to go through a special training program.
Carter said Petrone has spent months researching the idea.
Many other towns on Long Island use systems like this, including Smithtown, which has a park ranger division comprised of “law enforcement personnel” acting as peace officers in town-owned facilities to “enforce town codes, parks rules and regulations, as well as state and federal laws,” according to Smithtown’s website.
Smithtown park rangers work in conjunction with Suffolk police, and Carter said Huntington plans to do the same. Duties for Smithtown rangers include preserving town property, deterring crime, arresting offenders and assisting in searches for missing persons.
“It’s another presence in the community with the ability to make arrests,” Carter said in a phone interview.
The town spokesman also said the money to hire peace officers would be taken from the part of the budget set aside for additional seasonal hires.
As for information on uniforms, salary, shift schedules and more, Carter said the program is still in the works and no other news is available at the moment.