Earlier this summer, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced the decision to increase patrol in Huntington with park rangers, who would monitor town parks and improve security, and this past weekend these rangers finished their training.
Starting last Thursday night, Sept. 1, five of the eventual six rangers went through orientation and preparation procedures, and experienced their first nights out on the job.
Huntington Station resident Jim McGoldrick was not able to get a glance of the rangers in work during the weekend, but praised the idea.
“I think it’s a great move on the town,” he said in a phone interview. “Every little bit helps. It’s coming together, and is helping the community.”
A.J. Carter, town spokesperson, said the weekend was a success, in a phone interview: “People were very happy to see them. They were given information from the community; people responded very positively.”
Although their jurisdiction is in town parks, the park rangers can intervene if they see activity on the roads or other areas outside the parks.
The officers are meant to function as peace officers do. 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. They can also carry firearms and take away weapons from people who do not have the proper licenses to carry.
Carter said all rangers are certified with a firearm, know how to use a defibrillator, administer Narcan and everything else required of a peace officer.
The town spokesperson also said the exact shift times and locations have not yet been decided, as they want the rangers themselves to be able to give input once they have more experience on when and where the best use of their roles would be. Each ranger works part time, and is paid $23.53 an hour. There are expected to be two rangers on patrol per shift — one overseeing the west side of town, and the other the east. Their shifts run from Thursday to Sunday.
The park rangers operate under the supervision of the town’s public safety department.
Joe Rose, director of public safety, also said the community received the rangers very well in the opening weekend.
“Multiple people stopped them throughout their shifts to bring [up] their concerns,” Rose said in a phone interview. “It was rewarding to see the response from the public.”
Rose said an added benefit of park rangers is that it cuts down on time with handling a crime in action. Park rangers are able to act without having to call the Suffolk County Police Department first, and can issue tickets and make arrests on their own.
Huntington has experienced violent crimes in some parks.
On Aug. 20, an 18-year-old’s body was found with lacerations in Greenlawn Park. A man was walking through the town early that morning and discovered the body. In 2013, the body of a young woman was found in the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve, which borders Huntington Station.
Many other towns on Long Island use systems like this, including Smithtown, which has a park ranger division comprised of “law enforcement personnel” who “enforce town codes, parks rules and regulations, as well as state and federal laws,” according to the Town of Smithtown website.
Carter said the final details of this program will be locked down in the coming weeks.