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Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker speaks during a press conference July 25 about creating a permanent panel to address the ever-growing opioid crisis. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Following another year of rising opioid use and overdoses, Suffolk County officials announced legislation that would create a new permanent advisory panel to try to address the issue.

“We have lost people from this [problem],” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said during a July 25 press conference. “Children have died, adults have died and we’re here to do more.”

The panel would have 24 members, including representatives from health and science groups, members of law enforcement, hospital employees and individuals from the Legislature’s Committees on Health, Education and Human Services and would focus on prevention, education, law enforcement and drug rehabilitation across the county, Anker said. The panel is planned to be broken up into sub-committees, which would tackle a specific area.

“This is an issue that needs all hands on deck,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “We are not going to arrest ourselves out of this — this is a public health issue [of historic proportion], but law enforcement plays a critical role.”

Over 300 people from Suffolk County died from opioid-related overdosess in 2016, according to county medical examiner records. Sini said that in 2016, the police administered Narcan, a nasal spray used as emergency treatment to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in Suffolk County over 700 times.

A 2010 bill saw the creation of a similar advisory panel with 13 members, many of whom are members of the new proposed panel. The original, impermanent panel ended five years ago, but had made 48 recommendations to the legislature focused mainly on prevention education, treatment and recovery. Two recommendations from this committee that were put in effect were the Ugly Truth videos shown in public schools, and countywide public Narcan training.

Though proud of the work they did on that panel, members agreed the situation has worsened since it was disbanded.

“[Seven] years ago we stood here and announced the initial panel — I had the privilege of co-chairing that group — a lot of the things we recommended actually happened, some things didn’t,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, chief executive officer of the Family and Children’s Association. “Regardless, the problem hasn’t gotten any better, and in fact, it’s gotten progressively worse. Some of the gaps in prevention, access to treatment, recovery and law enforcement haven’t yet been filled. For us to have an ongoing opportunity to have a dialogue together — to brainstorm some new solution to disrupt the patterns here — is very, very valuable.”

On the education side, Islip School District Superintendent of Schools Susan Schnebel said at the press conference that education has to begin at a very young age.

“It’s important that schools take hold of what happens in the beginning,” she said. “That includes educating students at a very early age, educating the parents to know what’s there, what are the repercussions, what is the law. That needs to happen with a 5 or 6-year-old.”

Executive director of the North Shore Youth Council Janene Gentile, and member of the proposed panel, feels that the advisory panel is an important step. She said she hopes that it will be able to do more in helping prevent people, especially young people, from using opioids in the first place, and hopefully help those exiting rehab.

“Implementing a family component when they are in rehab is really crucial, while they are in rehab and when get out,” Gentile said. “There are other agencies like mine — 28 in Suffolk County. If we can reach out to them they can help with re-entry [into society]. They go on the outside and the triggers that started them on opioids are still there, and they need to have places where there are no drugs. We’ve gone through a lot, but we’ve got to do more — and prevention works.”

Nazi material, along with weapons were seized from a home in Mount Sinai last June. File photo from the SCPD

Centereach resident Edward Perkowski Jr. was found not guilty last month of all charges against him after he was indicted on illegal weapons possession following a raid at his former Mount Sinai home. During the raid, Nazi paraphernalia, drugs and cash were also seized.

Perkowski Jr., 34, was the focus of a major Suffolk police news conference last June, but in court, the case unraveled because the jury did not believe detective’s confidential informant. The informant, according to defense attorney Matt Tuohy, of Huntington, was Perkowski Jr.’s former girlfriend.

Edward Perkowski was acquitted last month of all charges. File photo from SCPD

“They made my guy look really, really bad, and he was innocent,” Tuohy said in a statement. “He really suffered.”

A Riverhead jury found Perkowski Jr. not guilty on all eight counts of criminal possession of a weapon, and one charge of criminal possession of a weapon. Other charges in the 14-count indictment were dropped three weeks before the trial began.

At the time, Police Commissioner Tim Sini said: “Today’s search warrant might have prevented a deadly, violent incident, like the one we recently saw in Orlando,” referring to the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Sini also said the house was “infected with a disease called hate.”

“They all called my family Nazis,” said Edward Perkowski Sr., a Vietnam veteran. “All of the lies started because my son dumped their ‘confidential informant.’ And the police only took the German stuff we collected from World War II, nothing Russian or Chinese or any other country. It bolstered their story. We’re collectors.”

Perkowski Jr. owns a registered online military surplus company, registered in Riverhead. The money, which was Perkowski Sr.’s workmen’s compensation funds, was returned to him.

“The jury said the police lied,” Perkowski Sr. said. “Everyone thought my son was a Nazi, and he wasn’t.”

Paul Sommer mugshot. Photo from SCPD

A Mastic man in possession of drugs, who allegedly intentionally struck three police vehicles injuring a detective May 23, was arrested in Centereach.

Paul Sommer was sitting in his vehicle, parked in the Wendy’s parking lot at 2278 Middle Country Road in Centereach, when he was approached by 4th Precinct detectives and police officers who believed he was engaged in a drug transaction at approximately 2:30 p.m. Detectives identified themselves and Sommer attempted to flee, rammed a police vehicle and struck a detective. The detective, who was outside of his vehicle when he was struck, was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Sommer fled from the parking lot, and a short time later, he intentionally crashed into two police vehicles at the intersection of Hawkins Avenue and Nicholls Road in Centereach where he was taken into custody.

Fourth Squad detectives charged Sommer, 22, with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree assault, three counts of third-degree criminal mischief, first-degree reckless endangerment, two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.

Sommer was held at the 4th Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

Northport elementary students cheer on their classmates playing Family Feud, Monday, May 8. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

The halls of the W. J. Brosnan Building were roaring with cheers Monday night as elementary students in Northport learned how to have fun and stay drug free during a game night hosted by the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

Kids from all five of the elementary schools in the district battled for prizes in Family Feud, dance competitions and more, while also learning about ways to avoid peer pressure and enjoy a drug-free life. Parents of the students sat in the audience to cheer on the contestants.

Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said the group wanted to do something in the realm of prevention, aimed at fifth-graders who are transitioning to middle school.

Northport elementary students play Family Feud, Monday, May 8. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“We wanted to hit the younger kids with the prevention message but do it a little bit differently, where they were having fun while learning,” Ferrandino said in a phone interview. “We wanted to show the kids, if you don’t do drugs you can have fun.”

The co-chair said he got in touch with Kym Laube, the executive director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, or HUGS, a group aimed at prevention efforts, who told him about the program she ran in another school district.

“I said that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Ferrandino said. He sent out surveys for all the students to complete in school, which became the answers in Family Feud, and the students created posters on being drug free and some even came up with a rap they performed during the dance contest.

“This was a unique way to send a message to the kids,” Ferrandino said. “We’re trying to start a positive culture because there’s so much negative energy.”

Laube, who Ferrandino described as “the queen of prevention,” said this type of interactive concept is successful at getting families and kids on the same page.

A poster decorated by elementary school students. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“He [Ferandino] took it to a whole other level though,” she said in a phone interview. “He turned it into more than just a one evening event. This culminated into weeks of learning about prevention — it reinforces the information. When young people get together and have fun and experience a natural high, it just reinforces what the school is trying to do.”

Laube was the host of Family Feud and said the event was a total success.

“It was a blast,” she said. “Fifth graders have such an intense energy, and to see the joy of their parents watching their children have fun and be free, it was great. It was also a great showcase for what the task force is working to accomplish.”

Ferrandino said he agreed the night was great. Students won prizes like a pizza party for their school, tickets to Adventureland, laser tag and more alternative activities to have fun instead of drug use.

“It was awesome,” he said. “The dance-off was planned for 15 minutes, and the kids could’ve gone for more than an hour. The hidden gem was really all the prevention work that was done weeks before last night, all the work the elementary counselor did ahead of time.”

File photo

Kenneth Pellegrino was arrested after drugs, fireworks and weapons were seized from his Sound Beach home, following a search warrant executed by Suffolk County Police.

During the May 3 search, $7,000 worth of fireworks, 110 grams of heroin worth about $26,000, 75 grams of crack/cocaine worth approximately $4,500, 33 grams of marijuana and more than $1,800 in cash were found. A shotgun, digital scales, cell phones and drug packaging material were also seized.

Pellegrino, 42, was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, unlawfully dealing in fireworks and unlawfully storing fireworks.

“This is part of our enhanced narcotics strategy where we are cracking down on drug dealing in our communities,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “What’s important to note about this search warrant is that it began with calls to our 631-852-NARC line. We were able to get drugs off the street and a shotgun off the street that belonged to a drug dealer, and we were able to do that because of the assistance of the residents of Suffolk County.”

Pellegrino will be held overnight at the Seventh Precinct for arraignment at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

Police found heroin, guns within reach of young children inside home

Guns, drugs and cash seized from Keith Daves' Coram home. Photo from SCPD

Heroin, marijuana, an assault rifle, two handguns and thousands of dollars in cash were seized from the home of a Coram man following the execution of a search warrant by Suffolk County Police at his residence May 3.

Detectives from the Narcotics Section, 6th Precinct Special Operations Team, Criminal Intelligence Section and officers from Emergency Service Section, 6th Precinct Gang Unit and Canine Section executed a search warrant at Beach Lane at about 6 a.m. and arrested Keith Daves, 44, who lives at the home.

Keith Daves mugshot. Photo from SCPD

“It was a very successful operation,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said during a press conference. “This is someone who is a predicate violent felon offender. This was clearly a location where Mr. Daves was selling drugs.”

Officers seized 349 grams of heroin and fentanyl worth more than $83,000, 24.7 grams of marijuana, a loaded AR15 assault rifle, a high point 9mm handgun with loaded magazines, a .45-caliber handgun stolen from a previous crime in Nassau County, a stun gun, $16,387 in cash, scales and cell phones.

Daves was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and second-degree criminal use drug paraphernalia. He was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child for having heroin within the reach of five children between the ages of 1 and 12 living at the house.

Daves was charged with rape — he was convicted of first-degree sexual assault — in 1991. Records show Daves was sentenced to six months after taking a plea to sexual abuse.

“Once again this is a successful search warrant executed by the Suffolk County Police Department addressing a drug location in our community,” Sini said. “The message remains: If you are selling drugs in Suffolk County, we will be coming for you.”

Daves will be held overnight at the 6th Precinct and was scheduled for arraignment at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

SCPD Commissioner Tim Sini speaks at Broohaven Town Hall during a crime awareness event. Photo by Kevin Redding

Drug addiction on the North Shore and across Suffolk County is a complicated problem, so the police department and the community are coming together to come up with strategies to combat it.

One of the reasons Salvatore Pitti, a retired New York City police officer, left the Big Apple to live on Long Island he said in part was to escape drug-related crime. But in recent years, he has seen what he called an alarming uptick in heroin and opioid-related overdoses and deaths in the suburbs — so he decided to do something about it.

“We need to put the fear of God into our kids about this problem.”

— Salvatore Pitti

“We need to put the fear of God into our kids about this problem,” Pitti said April 11 during a Crime Awareness Committee meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall. “I’ve had the misfortune, in my career, to scoop three or four children off the street, dead. I don’t want to see that.”

Pitti, vice president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and leader of a local neighborhood watch group designed to eliminate local criminal activity, co-sponsored the event along with Brookhaven Town.

Joined by several guest speakers including Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson) and Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Tim Sini, Pitti spoke with local organization leaders and residents about how they can help make their communities safer.

Sini, who became commissioner last year, has already rolled out several initiatives through the SCPD to address the issues of illegal drug sales, abuse and overdoses as well as prevention and recovery in his short time leading the department.

Many of them rely on police department collaboration with the public.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that information from people in this room or from folks like you have helped us solve crimes,” Sini said, highlighting such programs as the NARC hotline, a partnership with Suffolk County Crime Stoppers, where callers can give crime tips anonymously and receive cash rewards for those that lead to arrests.

Another initiative, Sini said, is the Long Island Heroin Task Force, which targets drug dealers causing overdoses and the areas that have the biggest spikes in overdoses through data collected in the department. Programs are also being implemented in local schools that teach about the consequences of taking drugs, offer prevention and recovery steps, and even train parents and teens on how to administer Narcan, the nasal spray used to reverse heroin overdoses.

“We need to get people off drugs and into treatment for recovery,” Sini said. “Please think of ways the SCPD can partner with you to promote drug prevention in your community.”

Cartright said she understands the importance of a partnership with local law enforcement.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that information from people in this room or from folks like you have helped us solve crimes.”

— Tim Sini

“I grew up in Queens, in an urban community where there was a lot of crime, and there was no interaction with the police department the way we interact with the police department here,” the councilwoman said. “They come in and ask, ‘how can we work with you?’ That’s something, 25 years ago, I didn’t have when I was growing up. This is not a problem we can solve alone.”

Pitti said he started the Crime Awareness Committee three years ago to shine a spotlight on a local marijuana dealer in his neighborhood. Due to his effort and a collaboration with neighbors and the police, the dealer was ultimately pushed off the block.

Even though the group has since grown, he said he wants more community involvement.

“When I first started this, I received a civic email list but, unfortunately, it was antiquated and outdated,” he said. “We’re working together on it, to try and fix it and put more emails in. That, to me, is the first problem. If we can’t call each other, how can we help each other?”

He handed out a packet to attendees of the meeting outlining ways to identify dangerous people in the community. The packet gives details on how to check if houses in a neighborhood have rental permits; report town code violations; deter underage drinking at parties and neighborhood gatherings; and a detailed physical description form to fill out upon witnessing suspicious activity.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs after he was rescued from his burning vehicle in Rocky Point April 12.

Corey Tierney was driving a 2003 Hyundai Sonata northbound on County Road 21, about one mile south of Route 25A, when he lost control of his vehicle, which crashed into a wooded area and caught fire. Passing motorists, Claudio Gil and Margaret Ward, pulled an unconscious Tierney from the vehicle.

Rocky Point Fire Department Rescue responded and administered Narcan to Tierney, 21, of Mount Sinai, who regained consciousness and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries and charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs.

Gil, 30, of Mount Sinai, and Ward, 51, of Rocky Point, were not injured.

Javon Harrington. Photo from PIO

Suffolk County Police arrested a man in Selden Feb. 11 for driving under the influence of drugs after a two-vehicle crash.

Javon Harrington was operating a 2003 Infiniti on North Evergreen Drive at a high speed when he went through a stop sign at Pine Street and struck a 2009 Dodge, and then a tree. Harrington, 20, of Coram, and his passengers Elijah Quinitchette, 24, of Coram and Eddie Bray, 20, of Coram were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Selden Fire Department Ambulance. Bray suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Harrington and Quinitchette suffered minor injuries.

The 19-year-old man driving the Dodge, and his two passengers, were also transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Selden Fire Department Ambulance for observation.

Sixth Squad detectives arrested Harrington and charged him with driving while ability impaired by drugs. He was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Feb. 12.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is ongiong.

Dom Spada speaks to kids at the fire house in Halesite. Photo from Dom Spada

By Victoria Espinoza

After responding to calls for drug overdose after drug overdose, one Halesite Fire Department firefighter said enough is enough.

Second Assistant Fire Chief Dom Spada said he got sick of going on overdose calls and wanted to do more —  so he created a drug prevention and education program called Be Smart, Don’t Start: A Drug and Alcohol Free Lifestyle.

Spada, who is also deputy mayor and police commissioner of Huntington Bay, said one drug overdose call in particular was the catalyst for the program.

“I went on a call on Thanksgiving morning, and there was a 19-year-old girl dead,” he said in a phone interview. “Something compelled me to go to the wake. So I did and I chatted with her mom, who told me this had been a long road for the family, since the girl had started using in sixth grade. That blew me away.”

Spada said it hit him especially hard because he has two young children. He created Be Smart, Don’t Start, where he speaks to sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders about the dangers of using drugs, and how they can stay safe.

“I describe the calls I go on, and it can get pretty graphic,” he said. “We also talk about the reasons why kids turn to drugs; peer pressure, bullying, problems at home. I’ve heard it all.”

Spada said he utilizes role-playing scenarios with the kids.

“The presentation is very direct and speaks to specific experiences that certain families and agencies have had with addiction. What it makes very clear is that the issue crosses demographics and neighborhoods.”
— Jim Polansky

“I give them a script and examples on how kids can get out of situations like if someone is pressuring them to try drugs,” he said. Spada is also a lacrosse coach, and some of his coaching experience spills into the course as well.

“I tell the kids, look at athletes; they hate to talk to the media, and whenever they’re asked questions they pretend to take a phone call,” he said. “I tell the kids they can do the same thing as a way to take themselves out of a situation they don’t want to be in.”

The firefighter said he also talks with parents about creating lines to use with their children if they need to be picked up from a party or place where they no longer feel comfortable. “You got to have a plan, just like going into a fire,” he said.

Aside from Spada’s presentation, he said he also brings a member of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to speak with the kids, as well as a parent who has lost a child to a drug overdose, and Chris Jack, Huntington Bay police chief, to talk to the kids about the legal ramifications of drug use.

“This was kind of put together on a whim, but we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Jack said in a phone interview.

Jack said Spada approached him to get involved. “This is important, you see the headlines everyday,” Jack said. “As a cop, you get desensitized to a lot of things, but when you see 12- and 13-year-olds hooked on heroin, you never get desensitized to that.”

The police chief said he can see the look of shock in kid’s eyes when he explains to them all the effects drunk driving and drug abuse can have on their life, including how it effects their record, getting a job, applying for college and more. Spada said the cost of installing a Breathalyzer in a car and court fees helps scare the kids straight.

Huntington school district Superintendent Jim Polansky has attended the program and said he sees it as a valuable resource for students and parents alike, and appreciates all the work Spada and the fire department does.

“Community partnerships are important, particularly when it comes to such critical issues as drug awareness and prevention,” he said in an email. “The presentation is very direct and speaks to specific experiences that certain families and agencies have had with addiction. What it makes very clear is that the issue crosses demographics and neighborhoods; it can appear anywhere and often in situations where it is least expected. This can be eye-opening for some, but a very important message to convey.”

Polasnky also said he appreciates the course being offered on a continuous basis. “The messages cannot be shared enough,” he said.

Currently the program is held at the Halesite Fire Department, but Spada said community groups and schools have reached out to see if he could bring the program to them. The next two programs dates are set for Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the Halesite Fire Department at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Feb. 1, at Huntington Manor Fire Department.

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