A Suffolk police officer offered startling insight into threats of school violence within the Smithtown community.
Suffolk County Police Department Capt. Kevin Williams gave his first presentation of what is expected to be many to Town of Smithtown officials at their May 8 town board meeting. As the town’s new liaison to the 4th Precinct, he gave an overall picture of what threats police are dealing with at area schools and in the community.
Williams said that since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, police have seen an increase in school-related incidents within the areas of Commack, Hauppauge, Nesconset and Smithtown.
“If you’ve seen it in the media, there’s probably one a day, threats from students against the school stating they are going to do a Parkland-like shooting or Columbine-type thing,” he said.
Williams said the increased cases of threats of school violence are not unique to Smithtown but are occurring in other precincts across the county. He advised parents to make a point of talking with their children about what may be inappropriate things to say and how they can raise a red flag with police. All threats are taken seriously, according to Williams, and are fully investigated taking a “decent” amount of time.
Suffolk police have been reaching out to and engaging in conversation with those school districts who have chosen to hire armed guards, including Hauppauge School District, following the Florida shooting, according to Williams.
“One of the most important things we all agreed is the people they hire are ex-law enforcement,” he said. “Highly trained professionals who have been out there and dealt with dangerous situations like this.”
He indicated a second school district within the Town of Smithtown is considering hiring armed guards in the future. As this becomes more common, Williams said cops are working to make sure they can quickly and easily identify armed guards in case of an active shooter situation.
In April, the police department reported violent crimes and drug overdoses were all heading in the right direction in the first quarter of 2018. This trend has continued over the past 30 days in Smithtown.
Williams reported drug overdoses due to opioid use, both fatal and nonfatal, have decreased by 25 percent compared to the same time period last year. He credited this to the agency’s 852-NARC (6272) hotline, which receives approximately 12 to 15 phone calls a month from residents providing tips on drug dealers and sales. The officer said the 4th Precinct’s narcotic detectives executed 14 search warrants in January alone and made numerous arrests.
Over the last month, Williams said robberies are down, with one in 2018 compared to four over the same period of time in 2017, as well as a decrease in residential burglaries. The biggest culprit of home invasions remains unsecured homes or buildings, he said.
“It’s summer and people want to leave their windows open, but a screen is not protection,” he warned.
One exception to the decrease in crime is in the area of commercial burglaries. In the past 30 days, there have been four instances compared to none during the same period of 2017, according to Williams. One recent case involved an individual who attempted to pry open the back door of St. Thomas More R.C. Church in Hauppauge.