Huntington town officials were pleased to find out they will be receiving federal and county funding to implement local programs addressing drugs and gang violence.
The town will be receiving part of the $500,000 federal grant awarded to Suffolk County Police Department from the U.S. Department of Justice Oct. 5 to combat the influence of street gangs such as MS-13. The grant comes from the justice department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national initiative aimed at stemming gang and gun violence through enforcement and community outreach programs.
“This is the fruits of a collaboration between Suffolk County Police Department and our town officials,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said. “The gang situation and opioid crisis are symptoms of something larger. While they are working on enforcement, we locally have to work on prevention and intervention.”
Edwards said she called for a meeting this past July with top Suffolk County officials including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) and town officials upon learning about this grant’s available to come up with a strategy.
“We agreed at that meeting that tackling the problem required working together to coordinate the work being done by law enforcement and social services and youth programs,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said. “The funding will enable us to move ahead at full speed towards making a dent in the effects gangs and violent crime have had on the quality of life in some of our neighborhoods.”
Edwards said she did not know exactly how much of the grant, or what funds, will be directed to the Huntington community, she will start working with local leadership to see what form the prevention and intervention initiatives will take.
“The money is now available to create these initiatives,” the councilwoman said. “We will work with community leaders and school districts to see what is best for their needs.”
Edwards said she hopes to gather these “key stakeholders” together in November, once election season is over. Ideas will also be brainstormed by Huntington’s Youth Council, a group comprised of students from each of the town’s nine high schools which meets monthly.
In addition to the federal grant, Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced the county legislature approved spending $70,000 to purchase two license plate scanners for the police department’s 2nd Precinct.
“It doesn’t infringe on civil liberties, but gives the police a heads up while they are cruising around,” Spencer said.
This will bring the precinct’s total up to five scanners allowing them better coverage of Huntington’s main roadways when searching for stolen cars or those on a watch list — whether protectively for an Amber Alert or wanted for suspected drug trafficking.
Spencer said, as a member of the county’s new Heroin and Opiate Advisory Panel, that recent reports pointed to Route 110 as a roadway heavily used for drug trafficking. He hoped the addition of two license plate scanners will help reduce the illegal activity in the Huntingon area.
“I want to keep the pressure moving in a positive direction and not only being reactive when there is some sort of public safety incident that has occurred,” he said.