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A free alcohol testing kit comes with one urination cup and test strip. Photo from Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

A new Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department program is looking to keep kids safe this prom and graduation season, while creating a way for parents to more easily open a dialogue with kids about underage drinking and drugs.

“We just want everyone to be prepared,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said. “It’s a celebratory moment for people graduating high school and moving on, and they feel a little empowered.”

On May 22 the sheriff’s office announced it is passing out free alcohol and drug testing kits.

“This is not supposed to be a punishment, and I don’t believe that was ever the purpose. It’s important to show kids that they can have fun without being high or drinking.”

— Janene Gentile

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between the ages of 15 and 24 is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are driving while ability impaired by alcohol or dugs and reckless or distracted driving.

The test kits include standard urine test that contains a single cup and stick that changes color depending on the presence of alcohol.

“We want parents to ask tough questions and [have] tough discussions early on so that they don’t get the knock on the door by a police officer telling them that their child is in the hospital or telling them that their child was driving while intoxicated,” Toulon said. “We would rather let them take care of their children so that law enforcement does not [have to] get involved.”

The North Shore Youth Council already offers these kits. Executive Director Janene Gentile said she doesn’t see the kits as a punitive measure, but as a way for parents to more easily talk about the topic with their children.

“Drinking is cultural in our society, but it’s an adult choice and not a young person’s choice,” she said.
“This is not supposed to be a punishment, and I don’t believe that was ever the purpose. It’s important to show kids that they can have fun without being high or drinking.”

Local schools have long tried to curb drug and alcohol use at prom while still trying to ensure graduating classes celebrate the final days before graduation.

Frank Pugliese said in his first year as principal of Shoreham-Wading River High School, he hopes his students can enjoy prom while staying safe.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but please be responsible in your actions so you do not harm yourself or anyone else.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

“We strongly advise all students to always make appropriate decisions,” Pugliese said in an email. “With that being said, we have great students. The vast majority make smart choices regardless of the policies in place, and we trust that they will continue to do so on prom night.”

Smithtown High School West participates in the county District Attorney’s Office new Choices and Consequences program that shows the dangers of reckless and drunk driving. Members of the DA’s office will be in the high school June 18.

In a letter to students, Smithtown West High School Principal John Coady said anyone caught drinking during prom will be suspended and kicked out. Prom tickets will not be refunded, and the student may be barred from the graduation ceremony.

Fifty alcohol and 25 drug testing kits were sent out to numerous schools to kick off the program. The kits are also available free at each Suffolk County legislator’s office and will remain offered through the North Shore Youth Council.

Each alcohol testing kit costs .74 cents while drug testing kits are $1.50. The $5,000 program is being paid for with asset forfeiture funds.

“I would like for all of them to enjoy the moment,” Toulon said of seniors attending prom and graduation. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but please be responsible in your actions so you do not harm yourself or anyone else.”

Two Dix Hills men arrested as a result of a long-term investigation

Dix Hill residents Wesley Snider and Steve Polizzi were arrested by New York State police for allegedly possessing more than 500 pounds of marijuana. Photo from NYS Police Dept

New York State police announced the arrest of two men who allegedly had more than 500 pounds of marijuana stored in two East Northport facilities.

The state police’s Troop L narcotics unit, based in Farmingdale, along with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office arrested two men for allegedly possessing drugs after a long-term investigation. Police executed search warrants at a Dix Hills home and two storage facilities, located at 2083 and 2091 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport. The officers found more than 500 pounds of marijuana, which was estimated to have a street value of more than $2 million. In addition, there was more than $200,000 along with multiple vehicles and real estate properties seized as result of the investigation, according to state police.

State police arrested two Dix Hills residents Steve Polizzi, 57, and Wesley Snider, 28. Polizzi is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal possession of marijuana, one count of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.  Snider is charged with one count of first-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Both men were arraigned May 10 in First District Court in Central Islip, and will be held in Riverhead county jail in lieu of bail. Attorney information for the defendants was not immediately available.

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Bridge of Hope Resource Center founder Celina Wilson is planning to turn a family owned home on Roe Avenue into a shelter for at-risk girls ages 16 to 21. Image from Google Maps

As the old cliché goes, it’s impossible to know when opportunity will knock, just be ready to answer the door when it does. Opportunity knocked for Celina Wilson about 30 years ago, both literally and figuratively. She went on to dedicate her life’s work to the opportunity that was standing at her front door.

The Port Jefferson Station resident founded Bridge of Hope Resource Center with her husband, George, in the late 1990s, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through family communication. The organization for years has been holding seminars, forums, workshops and other similar events to educate the community and arm parents with strategies for connecting with teens and young adults. Wilson and the organization’s overarching ethos is that education and prevention are the best means for keeping kids from falling victim to the ills lurking in society, like drug addiction and depression. In 2018, Wilson is hoping to advance Bridge of Hope’s mission a step further.

Wilson’s in-laws lived in Port Jefferson Station for about 30 years, but 10 years ago, after her husband’s mother died, her father-in-law, John Wilson, decided to move out of the longtime family home on Roe Avenue. The home was left to Bridge of Hope to use as an asset, sheltering families in crisis who had a hard time finding a place to live. Wilson said the only stipulation was the tenants needed to find work and contribute to the rent. Over the course of the last decade, Wilson said three or four families have stayed at the home.

Now, she plans to repurpose it to serve as a shelter for at-risk girls between 16 and 21 years old. The shelter — which will be called John’s House, to honor Wilson’s late father-in-law — will be a place for girls who run away from home or pose a risk of doing so due to conflicts with parents or guardians. While at the home, those staying in the five beds will be supervised and subjected to counseling and other programs in an effort to restore open lines of healthy communication with parents.

The inspiration for the home was several decades in the making for Wilson.

She was living with her now-husband’s family in the same Port Jeff Station home about 30 years ago, she recalled, when a 16-year-old boy knocked on her door. Even though it was 10 p.m., the then-21-year-old answered.

“He was wondering if he could sleep in our house,” Wilson said. “He was tired. He had a fight with his mom, and I’m figuring, ‘He must have knocked at plenty of houses. Why ours?’ We didn’t understand. But he asked us, ‘Please, just for the night, can I just come in?’ What went through my mind was, ‘If we don’t let him in, he’s going to be in the street and who knows what?’”

In the morning, Wilson remembers waking up wanting to hear more of his personal story, but by that time, he was already gone.

“What went through my mind was, ‘If we don’t let him in, he’s going to be in the street and who knows what?’”

— Celina Wilson

“I realized then, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so many young people out there, I wonder what his mom was thinking, if she knew he was somewhere safe,’” she said. “The story repeats itself if we fast forward, but it’s
different today because of what our young people are facing.”

Wilson said the home will be funded by donations and some money from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, which will also help in placing some of the girls in the home, though space will be available to accommodate the weary traveler like the one who knocked on her door 30 years ago.

“We feel the house is going to be a place where families can send their teens and work on situations that they themselves cannot work on in the home, and prevent them from running away,” Wilson said. “The goal is to reunite that youth back with their family.”

She said the length of stay for occupants will be determined on a case-by-case basis, with an eye toward sheltering those most in need, though she estimated many will be allowed to live there for up to 18 months. Each of the tenants will be expected to participate in counseling sessions and work toward agreed-upon goals, all while Bridge of Hope will be maintaining contact with the families to try to rebuild lines of communication. Wilson said the organization will follow up with the tenants even after they leave the home to make sure they stay on track as they grow up and prepare for independence.

One representative from the resource center will live permanently at the home, who Wilson referred to as the “house mom,” though aides, case workers and other specialists will also be on hand on a rotating basis seven days a week. She said tenants will be supervised at all times and expected to be at the home unless they’re at school, work or an organized activity.

She said admittance into the home will have nothing to do with demographics, as family conflict is common among all segments of society.

“It could be anyone’s child that is out there on the street,” Wilson said. “It could be my child.”

One community member who was helped by Wilson and Bridge of Hope said she sees the organization’s founder as the perfect person for an initiative like John’s House.

“She made things happen for me,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. She said Wilson and the
center worked with her for five years, assisting in finding work and getting her life on track while dealing with a physical disability. “She’s right for these kids. A lot of young people don’t have a place to go.”

She called Wilson a good person and a woman of her word, adding she wished the founder would run for political office.

Wilson said she contacted the Suffolk County Youth Bureau, an entity under the county executive’s purview dedicated to ensuring effective management of county funds for youth services, for assistance in
establishing policies for her initiative. She said the organization also conducted an inspection at the house, which will undergo minor renovations prior to her October target date for opening.

Though members of the bureau’s leadership declined to comment on the dealings with Bridge of Hope, one of its responsibilities includes monitoring and evaluating youth programs, research and planning; information and referrals; and training and technical assistance for community-based youth organizations, according to its website.

Wilson said she sees John’s house as a fitting tribute for the man it’s named after, who migrated to the United States from Jamaica in the Caribbean. He worked for years as a custodian at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.

“He left such a legacy here and abroad that we thought it appropriate to call it John’s House because he lived a life of service, kindness and love to his fellow man,” she said.

To donate to help Wilson’s cause, visit www.gofundme.com/xtzv6n-hope-for-her.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event Feb. 9 at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D-Lake Grove) has only been in office for six weeks but he’s wasting no time working on the issues he campaigned on and bringing change to his new environment.

“Every single day since I’ve started, I wake up very enthused and energetic to get to work,” Toulon said during a media roundtable discussion he hosted Feb. 9 at Yaphank Correctional Facility. “I want to break down the barrier between law enforcement and our community — I want residents to know who their sheriff is.”

Since Jan. 1, Toulon, a former Rikers Island corrections officer and captain, has visited five school districts across the county, from Huntington to Bay Shore, to speak with students about bullying, vaping, opioid use and gangs as part of a long-term initiative to, in his own words, “get to the kids before they get to me.” A more thorough “listening tour” will be held across local high schools during which Toulon will meet with specific students who face drug- and gang-related problems.

“I told him, ‘You’ve done more in six weeks than I’ve ever seen anyone take office do.’”

— Steve Kuehhas

“I am going to be very tough on crime,” he said. “I will, as I did in New York City, go after gang members and those distributing drugs illegally and I encourage the community’s support.”

He said he is in the process of creating an intelligence-gathering system within the correctional facility similar to one established in the gang unit at Rikers Island to help outside law enforcement partners, including District Attorney Tim Sini (D), track down criminals and better prevent and solve crimes. As part of the system, information will be  gathered from inmates through interviews, phone calls, visits and social media interactions that occurred before incarceration, with a focus on targeting particular crimes in certain towns and jurisdictions.

He said he will also be implementing a re-entry program for inmates leaving the jail focused on rehabilitation and counseling.

“We’re all in this together and that individual that’s in his cell today may be in Target tomorrow buying something,” he said. “So I want to make sure we treat everyone with fairness and respect, and assist them in keeping their dignity. I feel confident that, after four years, we are going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives by deterring individuals from joining gangs, reducing this epidemic involving prescription drugs and [reduce] the high rate of recidivism.”

Toulon said he is adamant about taking politics out of the sheriff’s office, insisting he will not be accepting any political contributions and that all employees will be evaluated solely on attendance and work performance.

He has already met with various members of his staff, and inmates in the housing area, to address any issues they may have faced in the past. In light of the nationwide #MeToo movement, he said he will be meeting with female deputy sheriff’s, correctional officers and non-uniform staff members to create a more open environment when it comes to addressing issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Inside the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

While he admits to having a different management style than his predecessor, former sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C), Toulon said he is pleased so far by the way Suffolk’s two jails operate and will be holding onto many of DeMarco’s implementations.

This includes a controversial policy change in December 2016 to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested in Suffolk County, and are eligible to be released pending a trial, at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents so they can begin the deportation process. Before DeMarco implemented the change, the county needed a judge’s order, or warrant, to hold onto someone wanted by federal immigration officials.

At the time, DeMarco expressed concerns about the impact on public safety that could come from releasing immigrants who committed crimes back into their communities.

“ICE will stay in this jail,” Toulon said. “It’s a hot button topic, but my number one job is to keep the community safe. Looking at local charges of all undocumented inmates, these are really horrific crimes — if done by anybody. We’re talking about sexual assault, robberies, burglaries.”

Current Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas, a former bureau chief for the district attorney’s office who became second in command to DeMarco in 2016, is the only past employee of the office who will be interviewed for undersheriff in the new administration as Toulon seeks “an infusion of new and objective ideas.”

Kuehhas said he’s beyond impressed with the job Toulon has done so far.

“I told him, ‘You’ve done more in six weeks than I’ve ever seen anyone take office do,’” he said. “I know because I’m at his side all the time and the work is constant, which I love. It’s always busy. And this is just the beginning. He’s very honest when he says he wants to be transparent and always available to the public.”

Northport police have played a key roll in providing information that may get a suspected heroin dealer off the village’s streets.

Three Northport Village Police Department officers worked on a joint operation with the Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Sherrif’s office and Suffolk County District Attorney’s office to execute a search warrant on a Central Islip home Oct. 11 that led to the arrest of an alleged heroin dealer.

In searching the Wilson Avenue apartment, officers found and confiscated 33 grams of heroin, seven grams of Fentanyl, $3,050 in cash along with drug scales and drug packaging materials. A 2016 Honda was also seized in the raid.

Davon McNair, 25, of Central Islip, was found and arrested a short distance from his home, and found to be in possession of crack cocaine, according to police.

Davon McNair mugshot. Photo from Northport Police Department

“Anyone who sells this poison in our village can expect the Northport police to pursue them to wherever their trail leads,” said Chief Bill Ricca of the Northport Police Department.

Ricca said the information that led to McNair came to light when two of his officers made unrelated arrests for drug possession in May. Upon questioning those in custody, police were able to piece together details that appeared to lead back to the same individual making heroin sales not only in Northport but throughout Suffolk County. The intelligence was brought before the Suffok County task force, who had undercover agents purchase heroin from McNair on three different occasions over several months before applying for the search warrant.

McNair, a known member of the Bloods street gang, was charged with five felony counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and one misdemeanor count of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He is currently being held on $100,000 bond/$50,000 cash bail.

“McNair maintains his innocence, defends his reputation, and will vigorously defend himself against these charges,” said his defense attorney Pierre Bazile.

In the past few weeks, Northport police have also been involved providing Suffolk County police with information that led to the arrest of Manorville resident Donald Guichard Sept. 20. Guichard was arrested for allegedly growing more than 100 marijuana plants in a subterreanian home for sale, according to Suffolk police.

“We like to let the public know when we can get bad guys off the street,” Ricca said. “But if there is more to gain, we don’t publicize it.”
Ricca said he was confident strict enforcement polices seem to be reducing the amount of drugs in the village.

“For the first time in three or four years, we’re seeing a downtick so far,” he said, noting there are three months left in the year. “We’ve been told by those we arrest or informants that the word is out — ‘stay away from Northport.’”

The Three Village school district will hire an additional guidance counselor at Ward Melville High School, above, as well as a psychologist to administer tests throughout the district. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Donna Newman

At a recent meeting of the Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program — a support group that seeks to educate all and assist parents and family members of teens and young adults battling substance abuse —  I spoke with a young mother of elementary-school-age children. She was there to learn about this growing danger that has taken so many lives in Suffolk County. She is afraid for her children. They are growing up in a society where drug overdose deaths have become routine. She wants to protect her children from becoming victims of substance abuse.

This mom has been on a crusade to make parents aware of the dangers, knowing that this is a Three Village problem and it will take community awareness and extensive effort to combat it. So she speaks to parents of young children wherever she finds them to encourage them to be part of the solution. She told me the majority response from parents is: “Not my kid. She’s an A student.” Or, “Not my kid, he’s an athlete.” Or simply, “My child would never get involved in that.”

I’m here to tell you that you need to take your head out of the sand.

The significant drug problem at Ward Melville High School when my sons were in attendance in the 1990s was not publicly acknowledged by the school district — or anyone else other than the parents whose children “got into trouble.” Mine did not. They were honor grads, heavily involved in extracurricular activities.

However, in a conversation with one of my sons, years after graduation, I learned he had used drugs with some regularity while in high school. It turned out I had been one of those clueless parents. But I was one of the lucky ones.

Lucky, because back then, when a teenager bought marijuana, it was just pot. It was not the cannabis of today, which may be laced with illicit and scary drugs by dealers seeking to hook kids on stronger stuff. Lucky, because he did not have a propensity, and his “recreational” use never rose to the level of addiction.

Full disclosure: As a college student in the 1960s I experimented with marijuana as well. My equally clueless mother discovered a small baggie of weed in my room. She trashed it, never saying a word to me. In that era, just knowing she knew was enough to get me to stop.

The school district has finally acknowledged the fact that addiction is a disease requiring treatment, not a moral lapse requiring punishment.

According to “School district welcomes new drug and alcohol counselor” in the  July 20 edition of The Village Times Herald, the district has hired a substance abuse counselor. Heather Reilly, certified social worker, will be tasked with rotating through the secondary schools one day each week (including the Three Village Academy alternative high school program), providing substance abuse counseling, educating faculty about warning signs and drug lingo, and creating educational curriculum for sixth-graders in collaboration with elementary health teachers. She will also be available to work directly with families.

While this is a laudable first step, it’s not nearly enough. Change will not happen without a concerted community effort. Parents need to accept the fact that this is a real problem affecting Three Villagers across the cultural and economic spectrum. Yes, it could even be your child.

Folks must come to grips with the fact that chemical dependency is a potentially fatal illness and that 90 percent of sufferers go untreated. They need to acknowledge that kids who are addicted to alcohol and/or opioid drugs are not “bad” kids. They are youngsters whose brains are not fully developed, who made bad choices that led to a tragic outcome. It’s time for all of us to learn all we can about prevention and to come together to end this plague.

There’s a lot you can do. For starters, attend the monthly meetings at the Bates House in Setauket. Dates and times are listed on Facebook on the Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Parent Group page — along with other helpful information. Learn when and how to begin to talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol and drugs and your family’s rules concerning underage drinking and substance abuse. A good place to begin is at New York State’s online site www.talk2prevent.ny.gov.

The next meeting at the Bates House, located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket, will be held Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Donna Newman, a freelance writer, is a former editor of The Village Times Herald.

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.”

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