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It’s the end of July so it’s likely the minds of students, administrators and parents have drifted far away from the hallways of their schools, away from school board meetings and discussions about funding safety improvements. It’s understandable. But following an in-office, exclusive interview with Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) July 20, county residents should sleep well knowing he has allowed himself no such break.

Hardening schools for the worst-case scenario — an intruder entering a local school with the means and intent to impose lethal, widespread harm — has become a top priority for districts across the country since the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. In the absence of substantive action on tightening gun laws with commonsense reform coming from the increasingly feckless Washington anytime soon, local municipalities and schools have had to get creative.

This week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed a bill permitting the county to pursue bond funding for a mobile application that government employees and school administrators will be able to download and use to directly contact law enforcement in the event of a shooting at a school or government building. In the aftermath of Parkland, Bellone announced an initiative that would allow districts interested in participating to grant access to school security systems to the Suffolk County Police Department, so that in the case of an emergency, law enforcement can see exactly what’s going on in the school. New York State passed its own set of bills in the spring as well, mostly geared toward allocating funds to districts interested in securing infrastructure or hiring additional security or mental health personnel.

These plans are a great start, especially, again, since we would all turn blue in the face holding our breath waiting for Congress. But Toulon raised some issues that seemed to us like they needed to be heard.

When asked if he could wave a magic wand and grant one thing to all 69 of Suffolk’s school districts to make them more secure, he identified establishing uniform practices countywide for training security — armed or otherwise — so that responders have a better feel for what they’re walking into should one of these dark days strike close to home. Uncertainty about what to expect between police and school district security should be the last thing either should be worried about in the midst of a frantic mission to save lives.

Further, Toulon said he has made his office available to districts interested in having their security practices assessed on a voluntary basis. So far, he said just 10 of the 69 districts have taken him up on the offer. We’d like to see that number reach 100 percent by the end of this year.

In addition, the sheriff’s office plans to host a forum for Suffolk school superintendents Aug. 16 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue to talk broadly about school security and to share ideas. The offices of the sheriff and county executive have not let this issue fade away during the summer months, and we hope schools haven’t forgotten either.

Guards say they’re settling in to posts in the district, will be brought back in September

From left, John, one of Mount Sinai’s armed security guards, Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and Christopher Innace, Pro Protection Inc. CEO, in one of the district’s school buildings, now guarded by armed security. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Guns in schools.”

Even to Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal it sounds like a foreign concept, but since March, the district has had four armed security guards stationed in all school buildings.

“When you look at what’s going on around you — you can’t ignore it,” Brosdal said. “Are we going to wait around for something before it happens?”

It has been a few months since the district hired its guards from Hauppauge-based Pro Protection Security Inc., and with the school year now over, those guards, such as elementary school guard John, said they have settled into a routine.

“The students and staff see me every day — the same face — and they get used to me. I think that’s really important for what I’m here to do.”

— John, security guard

“I man the hallways, make sure no unauthorized persons come in around the building, are going outside unauthorized — I check the doors, make sure they’re locked,” John said. “The students and staff see me every day — the same face — and they get used to me. I think that’s really important for what I’m here to do.”

Mount Sinai School District asked that the last names of the guards and their exact locations inside the school not be disclosed.

Despite the huge push for increased school security after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, only four of 69 districts in Suffolk County have opted to hire armed guards — Center Moriches, Hauppauge, Miller Place and Mount Sinai — as far as TBR News Media has identified. Other districts have publicly expressed interest in the possibility, but to date those are the only three.

It’s also a commitment in financial terms. Hauppauge is paying $300,000 for its contract to hire its armed security guards and Mount Sinai’s 2018-19 adopted budget included $400,000 in security funding, which was $305,000 more than the 2017-18 school year.

For the last months of the 2017-18 school year, four guards stood at attention around the Mount Sinai campus, which includes the elementary, middle and high schools. Each was dressed in a clean suit with an earpiece microphone in his ear and a concealed gun at his side. Though Christopher Innace, the CEO of Pro Protection, said the important thing in hiring these guards wasn’t necessarily about the heat they were packing, but how they could interact with students.

“In the case of the elementary school we wanted someone who had a bubbly personality — someone who is outgoing, is smiling — things of that nature,” Innace said. “We also train our officers to say hello, good morning and be interactive with the parents, the community and visitors. That’s just the impression we want to give.”

Innace said each of the security guards is a retired police officer. Security guard Dave mans the campus gate, Paul is stationed at the high school, John serves the elementary school and helps Don at the middle school.

“The kids have been excellent — they come up to me and shake my hand, they give me a high five,” John said. “You didn’t get that sense of it so much working [as an officer] in the city, but here it seems everyone is overwhelmingly appreciative, and it’s a nice feeling.”

Innace and vice president of Pro Protection Christopher Alger both said the recruitment process for the guards in Mount Sinai was rigorous and included background checks. The district specifically didn’t look for prison guards or people that Innace called the “bouncer” type. All the guards at Mount Sinai are trained in what Innace referred to as “verbal judo,” or using speech to de-escalate tense situations.

In the months leading up to the final decision to hire armed guards in March, the Mount Sinai community was divided on the issue, and many remain so. Some felt the armed guards were an absolute necessity and the only way to really ensure a safe school.

“I fully support it and I sleep better at night as a result of it,” Mount Sinai resident Heather Janae said. “When I pick up my elementary-aged daughter from school every day and see the armed guard standing there I am content. It’s a very sad and unfortunate need, but in my opinion, it’s a need.”

Others in the community said a gun in school, no matter who was holding it, could lead to danger and violence.

“It’s a travesty — more guns is not the answer to too many guns, especially in or near our schools where there appears to be the most hideous shootings,” Mount Sinai resident Ron DiGennaro said. His daughter graduated from Mount Sinai High School in 2002.

Some residents were concerned how the guards would respond to kids with mental and physical disabilities. While Brosdal said there haven’t been any problems in those cases, he said he plans to host training with the guards and the school’s special education teachers designed to teach the guards how to interact with students who have special needs.

“It’s a travesty — more guns is not the answer to too many guns, especially in or near our schools where there appears to be the most hideous shootings.”

— Ron DiGennaro

Since the Parkland shooting, security has become a greater concern for every local school district. Shoreham-Wading River, Smithtown and Kings Park school districts are building security vestibules in all school buildings over the summer. Smithtown is receiving unarmed security guards at the elementary schools, and the Huntington School District is replacing old doors and is hiring new security guards.

Along with its armed guards, Mount Sinai is using money from its unassigned fund balance to finance renovations to the school’s perimeter fencing and replacing some of the glass fronts seen at the high school.

Alger, who himself is a retired NYPD detective first grade, said the armed guards are just a part of the four D’s of security, which are: detect, deter, deflect and defend. Cameras and staff can act as detection. Layered entrances, such as vestibules, locked doors and perimeter fencing function as deterrents. Glazed and bullet proof glass works well as deflection, but Alger said a guard capable of stopping an intruder is the only real defense against an intruder.

“We’re not running away from the shooter,” Innace said. “We hear shots, we hear a commotion, we are running right to that scene. We’re running right to that shooter.”

Since the beginning of 2018, 26 students have been killed in school shootings through the middle of May, according to fact checking website Politifact. Accounting for school shootings that have not resulted in any deaths, there has been roughly a shooting per week since the start of the year.

Even with armed guards, Alger said there is no guarantee there will be no fatalities in the event of a shooting, but the severity of any shooting is decreased dramatically.

“Armed security isn’t the 100 percent cure but it will 100 percent at least reduce some of these casualties that are taking place,” Alger said.

Brosdal said he feared schools that do not take action now in hiring guards would regret it later.

“It takes one shooting on Long Island, only one, and I believe you’re going to see people clamoring for armed guards,” Brosdal said, then emphasized his point. “You’ll have people clamoring.”

Alger said all four guards have committed to returning to their positions at the start of the next school year in September.

An assault rifle, the weapon of choice in many mass shootings, including the Feb. 14 massacre at a Florida high school. Stock photo

The shots fired in a Florida high school last week are ringing out across Suffolk County.

Immediately following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and faculty members dead, Suffolk County school district officials began to batten down the hatches and inform residents that preparations are in place if an active shooter situation were to occur closer to home.

MOUNT SINAI

Since news of the shooting broke last Wednesday, Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said he and other administrators and members of the board of education have been thoroughly discussing, evaluating and prioritizing security upgrades across the district’s three buildings to make its existing emergency preparedness plan even safer. He said residents will see upgrades sooner rather than later.

“These are tense times now, and the safety of students and staff is paramount,” Brosdal said. “We’ve been fortunate in the past, but you can’t take anything for granted anymore.”

“These are tense times now, and the safety of students and staff is paramount.”

— Gordon Brosdal

Some of the upgrades currently being considered include the installation of more security cameras in each building in the district; security films for all windows that deter attackers from gaining access to a building via shooting through glass, buying students, teachers and staff more time to escape in the process; the implementation of identification badges for school staff and different-colored lanyards to be worn in each building to pinpoint outsiders; the hiring of retired law enforcement personnel inside the elementary, middle and high schools — currently the district has two outdoor security guards who monitor traffic entering and exiting the school grounds; and a better monitoring system on the district’s entranceway alongside Route 25A.

“We are having real, hard discussions about this,” Brosdal said. “We also fielded calls from parents last week.”

The district’s existing emergency operations plan, Brosdal said, includes lockdown drills, evacuation procedures and relocation of students from one school to another in emergency situations.

He added that, at Mount Sinai, all visitors must enter the buildings through a security vestibule and are required to show identification and state a reason for entering the building.

He said each building in the district is equipped with the School Active Violence Emergency hotline, an emergency notification system rolled out by Suffolk County in 2013 in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. With the push of a button, the phone systems are programmed to automatically bypass normal communication channels and immediately dial the county police 911 center supervisor. The program displays the school’s location and initiates an immediate dispatch to the nearest available emergency responders.

According to Suffolk Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who helped launch the system, only 34 out of 70 school districts are equipped with it. However, she hopes that changes in light of the latest tragedy.

“When they send a child to school after events like this, parents feel helpless — they have no control over what happens to their child throughout the day and have no choice but to rely on school and law enforcement security,” Anker said. “So, by working together, this program creates a stronger network of security for students in the schools. As soon as that phone rings, within eight seconds, the response process begins.”

SHOREHAM-WADING RIVER

Over at Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, Superintendent Gerard Poole released a letter to parents the day after the Florida shooting, ensuring that “safety and security for our students, staff and visitors is a daily topic within our schools” and is the first agenda item at each administrative meeting.

“When we hear of these tragedies, we are reminded that our district’s preparedness for any emergency situation is of the utmost importance,” Poole said in the letter. “Each school conducts drills related to evacuation, lockdown and lockout. These drills are observed by our security team and assessed for improvements.”

“When we hear of these tragedies, we are reminded that our district’s preparedness for any emergency situation is of the utmost importance.”

— Gerard Poole

He added that this past summer, the district hired an outside security consultant firm to add an extra level of expertise to its plans, drills and overall preparedness.

In the Emergency Planning Information for Parents tab located on the district’s website, some of Shoreham’s security procedures are outlined: Outside doors are locked when school is in session; security guards are at each school, checking entrances to monitor the district’s access points and perimeters; all school visitors must obtain a pass; and school personnel are required to wear photo ID badges.

“On an ongoing basis, the district is reviewing its use of technology to further strengthen our security plans,” Poole said. “In addition, with the support of our security consultants, the district recently completed a security audit and developed a multipronged plan to further enhance the safety and security of our campuses.”

According to the district, unique variables are occasionally implemented into the drills, like a blocked exit, in order to present a more realistic scenario.

PORT JEFFERSON

“Although teaching and learning is our core mission, families, first and foremost, want to know that their loved ones are safe at school,” said Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano in a Feb. 15 email. He explained that, in preparedness for a similar situation, emergency drills are conducted regularly at the school, security guards are in place and cameras are installed throughout the district’s property. “We are working collaboratively with the Suffolk County Police Department to identify areas for continued attention moving forward.”

He also said that in the aftermath of the Florida shooting, discussions were held in classrooms for students and efforts will continue to be made to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression in them.

“Internally, we are working with students through a variety of programs and strategies to address their social-emotional health,” he said.

ELWOOD

Kenneth Bossert, superintendent of the Elwood school district, said while he is hesitant to make public any portion of the school’s full emergency preparedness plan, in an effort to shield tactics from the “bad guys,” the district does plan for all types of emergencies on a consistent basis. In cooperation with the Suffolk County Police Department, he said the district conducts a minimum of four scheduled drills per year.

“We’re all in this together.”

— Kenneth Bossert

On the night of the Florida shooting, Bossert made, what he called, a rather lengthy phone call to all parents to share this information and put minds at ease.

“We’re all in this together,” he said.

SMITHTOWN

For better protection against intruders, this school district is equipped with the Raptor Visitor Management System, a web-based monitoring software designed to track visitors and electronically check them against public databases, as well as exterior cameras for all its elementary buildings, according to Superintendent James Grossane. He also said each school building has access-controlled doors operated by a swipe card.

“I want to reassure you that we take school safety and security very seriously,” Grossane said in a letter to parents. “Our schools are a safe place. As a district, we continuously review and improve our districtwide Emergency Management Plan as needed to incorporate any new policies or improvements in security equipment. Additionally, all district staff undergo annual training on the emergency response plan, and students and staff participate in drills throughout the school year.”

Grossane included a website link for the National Association of School Psychologists, and the organization’s document “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers” for students coping with the recent tragedy.

KINGS PARK

“Even though yesterday’s events seem far away from Kings Park, they are a frightening reminder of the importance of safety and the potential impact of senseless acts of violence.”

— Tim Eagen

Superintendent Timothy Eagen at nearby Kings Park school district also provided information from the NASP website to parents and informed them that psychologists and school counselors were available to students in the days following the tragedy.

In his letter, Eagen urged parents to speak with their children about the importance of reporting concerning activities they might see or hear from other students to adults, as many perpetrators of school shootings tend to leave clues leading up to their eventual rampages. These signs, he said, may include posts to social media relating to weapons, cruelty to animals or any reference to past tragedies, like Columbine.

“Even though yesterday’s events seem far away from Kings Park, they are a frightening reminder of the importance of safety and the potential impact of senseless acts of violence,” Eagen wrote in a Feb. 15 letter. “[But] while the world can sometimes seem out of control, schools are incredibly safe places where children experience security, normalcy, inclusion and connections to positive possibilities. As I have often said, the three pillars of Kings Park are: Pride, service and family. Our collective vigilance will help to ensure that Kings Park remains a safe place to live and raise a family.”

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Suffolk County police yesterday arrested a Kings Park man for allegedly impersonating a police officer in a Ronkonkoma hotel parking lot.

Two plain clothes officers saw a man sitting in a silver 2014 Hyundai Tucson in the rear parking lot of the Clarion Hotel, located on Veterans Memorial Highway.  Officers noticed smoke and approached the vehicle to investigate. Police said they allegedly smelled marijuana and noticed the man was wearing a police badge.  They interviewed the man, who allegedly admitted the badge was fake. The officers also claim to have found an expandable baton and a fake police chief placard in the vehicle in plain view.

Justin Conte, 43, of Kings Park, was arrested Feb. 15 and brought to the precinct. Police said they discovered he had a valid pistol permit with three weapons. Officers went to safeguard the weapons at his house, where they allegedly found three illegal guns including two AR-15 rifles and a 38-caliber revolver. Numerous other types of police equipment were also found, according to police.

Conte was charged with one felony count of first-degree criminal impersonation, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a firearm, and two felony counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon following the investigation by the 5th squad.

Conte will be held overnight at the 5th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 16 at First District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone who has additional information is asked to contact the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552.

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

Police are seeking the public’s help with information after Nazi paraphernalia and a bomb-making manual were found during a raid in Mount Sinai early Thursday.

At 6 a.m. on Miller Place Middle Island Road, just before it merges into Mt. Sinai-Coram Road and Miller Place Road, brothers Edward and Sean Perkowski were arrested after authorities executing a search warrant uncovered 10 assault rifles, a hand gun, high capacity magazines, a shotgun, a stun gun, more than $40,000 in cash, marijuana, illegal mushrooms, Nazi material and a manual on how to make bomb. The Nazi-related material included framed photos of Adolf Hitler, Nazi flags with swastikas and books on white supremacy.

Ten assault rifles, a hand gun, high capacity magazines, a shotgun and a stun gun were retrieved from a home in Mount Sinia. Photo from SCPD
Ten assault rifles, a hand gun, high capacity magazines, a shotgun and a stun gun were retrieved from a home in Mount Sinai. Photo from SCPD
Edward Perkowski mugshot from SCPD
Edward Perkowski mugshot from SCPD

Edward Perkowski, 29, currently faces drugs and weapon charges, and Sean, 25, was charged with an outstanding warrant.

“This was a public threat on multiple fronts,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “We have two individuals who clearly subscribe to a hateful, violent ideology, who had an illegal arsenal at their fingertips.”

Although unable to discuss the details of the case as the investigation is still ongoing, such as if an event to use the arsenal of weapons was planned, whether they’ve been cooperative or if they were working alone or as part of a group, Sini said the department is currently working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is made up of local police department and federal agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Today’s search warrant might have prevented a deadly, violent incident, like the one we recently saw in Orlando,” Sini said. “I have a message to the residents of Suffolk County: The Suffolk County Police Department will do everything in its power to ensure your safety. We can only do our job most effectively if we have your cooperation and your collaboration.”

A large binder containing hand-written and printout material on bomb building was found during the search warrant in Mount Sinai. Photo by Desirée Keegan
A large binder containing hand-written and printout material on bomb building was found during the search warrant in Mount Sinai. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he’s never seen such coordinated police activity in all his years as an elected official, in regard to going after drug dealers and those promoting hate. He said the latter is what is of the utmost importance in this given case.

“Obviously this was a drug house, but drugs were only part of the problem,” he said. “This was a house infected with that disease called hate, and we want to stop hate in this country. There’s enough of it, and we’ve seen what hate can do and how it can destroy and hurt our nation.”

John Leonard, a neighbor who has lived two houses down for 18 years, said there was a brawl out in front of the home a couple of months ago, and 911 was called. When he saw the public police report following the search warrant, he went to police headquarters to offer his help.

“I’ve never spoke to them, we keep our distance,” he said. “There’s four or five cars parked in front [of the house] at all times and constant cars coming in and out. I had my car broken into in the driveway about a year ago. My neighbors had the same thing. We found prescription medication laying out in the street a couple of months ago. It wasn’t too hard to figure out something is going on.”

What he said horrified him, though, was the large bomb-making manual found, which included hand-written and printed out material.

“That scares the hell out of me,” he said. “That takes it to a whole new level.”

Sini also said he is concerned.

“To think that this was in the Town of Brookhaven is extremely disturbing and the police department, the brave men and women of this department, will stop at nothing to neutralize threats like this,” he said.

Nazi and drug-related reading material were found inside a home in Mount Sinai. Photo from SCPD
Nazi and drug-related reading material were found inside a home in Mount Sinai. Photo from SCPD

While Sini cannot say what pointed the department in the direction of the home, the commissioner explained it took time to get probable cause to establish a case, and tips from residents have been instrumental in much of the police’s recent findings. He said more than 600 tips on drug homes and drug spots in local communities have come through the 631-852-NARC hotline, which Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was instrumental in launching.

“We need to use our most vital resource, and that is the residents of Suffolk County,” Anker said. “We need to have a safer environment, but we need that information from the public.”

To report any information regarding the suspects from the Mount Sinai case, call 800-220-TIPS.

“We took two dangerous individuals off the street and we’ll fully investigate and prosecute this case,” Sini said. “We’ll spare no cost and no time. The fact that this is in our backyard is very concerning. That’s why the message today is to the public. Regarding criminal activity, please call the tips hotline or 911 immediately.”

Police say they seized drugs and cash from a Coram home last week. Photo from SCPD

Police will execute more search warrants and make more arrests at known hotspots for drug activity under a new initiative officials announced over the weekend.

The same day police arrested a father and son and seized more than a kilogram of drugs from the father’s home, the Suffolk County Police Department said it is focusing more on shutting down houses in residential areas where drug activity is suspected to be taking place.

That father-son pair was nabbed on Jan. 29, police said, after investigators executed a search warrant on a Coram home and found 730 grams of cocaine, 318 grams of heroin, 36 grams of oxycodone and $200,000 in cash. It was just the most recent in a string of busts through the initiative, which uses detectives from the Special Operations Team “to work with residents to obtain information on who is dealing and where,” according to an SCPD statement. “Armed with that information, detectives will be executing more search warrants of drug houses and making felony arrests at those locations.”

The effort is “fueled in part by residents’ complaints,” the SCPD said in the recent press release.

Police officials at a Jan. 26 civic meeting at the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station had reported raids at three local drug houses in the week leading up to the meeting, two in Gordon Heights and one in Centereach. At the latter location, 6th Precinct Inspector Bill Murphy said, cops busted a repeat offender and caught him with 4 ounces of cocaine and 2 ounces of heroin.

Police say they seized drugs and cash from a Coram home last week. Photo from SCPD
Police say they seized drugs and cash from a Coram home last week. Photo from SCPD

“He’s going away for a long time,” Murphy said.

In the police department’s announcement of its new initiative, it said investigators had executed nine search warrants in the several weeks since the effort started, seizing thousands of grams of drugs — including crack cocaine and heroin — as well as seven guns, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and drug paraphernalia.

“This new narcotics initiative will target residences where drug dealing is occurring,” Acting Police Commissioner Tim Sini said in a statement. “Drug houses in our neighborhoods degrade our sense of community, public safety and quality of life.”

In the Jan. 29 bust, 40-year-old Joseph Fearon, who police said lived at the Avalon Pines Drive home, was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, four counts of third-degree criminal possession and two counts of second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia.

Fearon’s attorney, Central Islip-based Glenn Obedin, did not return a call seeking a comment on his client.

The defendant’s son, 23-year-old Jasheme Fearon, a Middle Island resident, was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-degree criminal impersonation. Police also said that he was arrested on a New York State parole warrant and a bench warrant.

Attorney information for the younger Fearon was not available.

Drug activity can create spikes in other types of crimes. At the civic meeting last week in the Comsewogue library, Murphy said overall crime has dropped in his precinct but heroin arrests have doubled in the last five years — from 148 in 2011 to 298 last year — and the addicts are behind many of the area’s burglaries and robberies.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the serious crimes we have are driven by drug abuse: [The perpetrators are] addicted to heroin and they’re so addicted to it, they have to get money to go and buy these drugs,” he said.

He and Officer Will Gibaldi invited Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents at the civic meeting, including some who expressed their frustrations and fears relating to local drug activity, to reach out to them if they have a problem in their neighborhoods.

“If you contact me with a problem, you will get a response,” the inspector said. “You will not be ignored.”

The police’s new drug-house initiative is likewise geared toward responding to community members’ concerns.

“Working together with our law enforcement partners and sharing information is imperative to getting dangerous drugs off our streets and out of our communities,” Legislator Sarah Anker said in a statement about the crackdown on community drug dealing. “If you see something, say something.”

Cops say arrests are up and recent violence gang-related

Christina Fudenski, a Greenlawn resident, speaks with police officer Angela Ferrara at South Huntington Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Residents of Huntington are calling for an increase in staffing at the Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct in the wake of three separate shootings that occurred in less than a month.

Deputy Inspector William Read assured community members gathered at South Huntington Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 13, that the police force is completely competent in its current size, but residents were not convinced.

“We want to ask for outside help,” Jim McGoldrick, a Huntington Station resident said. “We can’t go on this way, our kids are being shot at.”

Luis Hernandez, 21, Aaron Jolly, 18, and Nelson Hernandez, 22, all survived shootings in the Huntington Station and Greenlawn area in late July and August. Luis Hernandez and Jolly both suffered from gunshot wounds to their legs, and Nelson Hernandez was shot in the back.

“What we’re doing is working, our program is effective, and crime stats are down dramatically,” Read said. “We are having success, but it can’t be 100 percent.”

The police associate many of the recent problems in the area with gangs, and Read said that gang cops have been out undercover investigating these cases constantly. He said there are a number of social programs combatting gang issues as well.

But the crowd argued that not enough is being done, and that more problems are arising.

Lisa MacKenzie, a Huntington resident, asked what the police are doing about the ongoing problem of intoxicated individuals passing out in the streets in Huntington Station.

“Why are these individuals taken to the hospital and not arrested?”

Officer Angela Ferrara explained that it is always the duty of the police and the standard procedure to treat someone medically first. She also noted that this has become a concern in many different areas in Huntington.

“What if I am on Depot Road in the future and hit [someone] who is intoxicated and attempting to cross the street, who will actually get in trouble then?” MacKenzie said. “We need drunk crossing signs, instead of deer crossing signs.”

Residents also complained about the how 911 dispatchers handle calls. Several said in the past, dispatchers have told them to either leave their car or house to get closer to a scene.

“They had the nerve to tell me to flag down one of the patrol cars when I called, and to get out of my car…this is putting the public at risk,” Nicholas Wieland, of The Huntingtonian news website, said. “You guys have some homework to do with the 911 service.”

Robert Finnerty, a Huntington Station resident, brought his son to the meeting, and said he is now afraid to go outside.

“We have people in the street across from us saying ‘I will shoot you in the street, I will kill you,’ and it’s scaring my son,” Finnerty said. He said the residents yelling this are people living in single dwelling homes occupied by five different families.

“We have to go after the overcrowded houses,” McGoldrick said. “It’s not fair to the police officers and fire firefighters. One of the biggest problems is how housing is handled in this town.”

As members of the audience agreed housing is a town issue, not a police one, the tone changed toward a desire to see a change in leadership in Huntington Town. Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (R) were both present at the meeting, as well as Huntington Town Board candidate Jennifer Thompson, a member of the Northport-East Northport school board.

Despite the criticism throughout the night, the 2nd Precinct deputy inspector defended the department’s work.

“We’re covering all our sectors, we’ve been doing it for years,” he said.

Story last updated on July 22, at 3 p.m.

Officers discovered a young man lying in the street after he was shot in Huntington Station on Saturday night, July 18.

Suffolk County police responded to a call shortly after 8 p.m. on 11th Avenue, across from Clifford Court, where they found Luis Hernandez with a gunshot wound in his leg.

Police said Hernandez was standing in the street in front of his house when he was shot, and the shooter’s identity is still unknown. Police said Hernandez was in stable condition at Huntington Hospital.

However, Alexandra Zendrian, director of public relations for North Shore-LIJ Health System, said on Tuesday in a phone interview that no one by the name of Luis Hernandez was in their directory.

Attempts to contact Hernandez this week were unsuccessful.

The shooting happened mere blocks from Huntington Manor Fire Department’s annual fireman’s fair, where many residents of Huntington Station were enjoying a fireworks show.

“Another one of our children [is] being wounded, what is it going to take to stop this?” June Margolin, a founder of Huntington Matters Neighborhood Watch said on Monday. Huntington Matters Neighborhood Watch was founded in 2014 due to the number of young casualties the community had suffered in the past two years.

The organization aims to unite citizens and law enforcement to deter crime and make the community safer.

The Huntington Station community is still feeling the effects of violence against its youth. On Thursday, July 16, friends and family of 18-year-old Maggie Rosales, 25-year-old Danny Carbajal and 23-year-old Sarah Strobel gathered at Depot Road Park for a memorial ceremony dedicated to the three Huntington Station youths that fell victim to crimes over the last two years.

Rosales was found stabbed to death, on Lynch Street in Huntington Station last October. Carbajal was shot in the head in July 2014 outside his Huntington Station home. Strobel’s body was found off the side of a path in Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in October 2013.

While police have charged Adam Saalfield of Huntington Station with Rosales’ murder, the other two victims have not yet seen justice, which is currently the same situation Hernandez is in.

“The police are working harder with us and I am looking forward to the new inspector at the 2nd Precinct, I hope there will be new ways to address this problem,” Margolin said. “But to me it doesn’t seem like this issue is slowing down.”

Car parts thief sought
Suffolk County Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a man who stole catalytic converters from vehicles in Hauppauge earlier this month.
Police said the man stole 10 catalytic converters from commercial vehicles parked at three businesses on Oser Avenue in the early morning hours of July 3.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

High interrupted
A 26-year-old man from East Northport was arrested in Smithtown on July 12 and charged with driving while ability impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol. Police said the man was driving a 1995 Honda and crashed into a tree on Route 25A and Oakside Road in Smithtown. He was arrested at 2:19 a.m. Police did not know which drug the man was on.

Rowdy gun-wielders arrested
Two individuals were arrested on July 8 in Smithtown and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Police said a 20-year-old man from Central Islip and a 20-year-old woman from Brooklyn possessed loaded handguns, and both were arrested on Nesconset Highway at 8 p.m. The man was also charged with obstruction of government administration — for flailing his legs and refusing to be placed in a police car — and two counts of menacing in the second degree, for displaying a handgun to two separate women shortly before his arrest. The woman was charged with disorderly conduct — police said she threatened others in a parking lot.

What a pill
Suffolk County Police arrested a 29-year-old man from Kings Park on July 12 at about 9 p.m. and charged him with criminal possession of a controlled substance. Police said he was arrested on 4th Avenue in Kings Park, where he was found in possession of prescription pills.

Check yourself
Police said someone stole a checkbook from a man’s 2010 Lexus LX450 parked on West Main Street in Smithtown on July 12 at about 7 a.m. There have been no arrests.

Cash out
Someone removed a register box containing cash from LA Fitness on East Main Street in Smithtown sometime between 10 p.m. on July 11 and 8 a.m. on July 12. There have been no arrests.

Wheel of misfortune
Someone took four wheels and tires from a 2014 Toyota Tundra at Smithtown Toyota on East Jericho Turnpike in Saint James between 6 p.m. on July 11 and 11 a.m. on July 12. There have been no arrests.

Coming down from a high
Suffolk County Police arrested a 24-year-old man from Setauket and a 22-year-old female from Stony Brook on July 10 in Stony Brook and charged them with loitering and unlawful use of a controlled substance. Police said the pair were observed at a location on North Country Road in Stony Brook in a Ford Taurus in possession of heroin. The duo was arrested at 8:37 a.m., police said.

Car looted
Police said an unknown person took money and a gift card from a 2015 Ford parked on Blinker Light Road in Stony Brook. The incident was reported on July 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Road bump
Someone stole a bicycle from outside a garage on Braemer Road in Setauket. The incident happened sometime between 10 p.m. on July 11 and 9 a.m. on July 12.

Jewelry jam
Police said someone stole jewelry from Kohl’s on Nesconset Highway in Setauket on July 11 at 6:45 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Purse pickpocketed
Police said a woman reported that someone stole her license and credit card from her purse as she was shopping at Walmart on Nesconset Highway in Setauket. The incident occurred on July 9 at 2 p.m., police said.

Money mystery
Police said an Antler Lane resident from South Setauket reported that someone used his Chase banking card to make several cash withdrawals between July 1 and July 9. There are no arrests.

Bank withdrawal woes
Police said that a Stalker Lane resident from Setauket reported someone used his bank information to make three unauthorized withdrawals between July 8 and July 9. There are no arrests.

Car trouble
Things got a little crazy on Woodhull Avenue in Port Jefferson Station on July 4, at around 10:05 p.m., when someone threw items at a 2013 Hyundai and damaged a car door.

Midnight mischief
An unknown person slashed the driver side tire of a 2007 Hyundai parked on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station on July 3.

Ride denied
A woman reported being harassed by a cab driver on June 30 at around 3 p.m. According to police, the complainant said she called a cab service to pick her up from a dollar store in Port Jefferson Station, but the driver refused to take her. He then allegedly pushed her and took her grocery bags out of the cab and drove away.

Bad luck
A 2008 Toyota’s side view mirror was damaged on July 7 while parked on Dayton Avenue in Port Jefferson Station.

Cloned
Police received two reports of cloned credit cards in the Port Jefferson Station community on July 7. According to police, a resident on Magnolia Drive reported an unknown person had cloned their ATM card and made withdrawals using their pin. Another resident on Pine Street made a similar report.

Razor-sharp
The person who demanded money at the USA Gasoline on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station got quite the surprise on July 6. According to police, the suspect went into the station shortly after 9:30 p.m. with a razor blade and demanded cash, but the quick-thinking complainant grabbed a knife and chased the intruder out of the store.

Taking flight
A 20-year-old Mount Sinai resident was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, third-degree fleeing from an officer in a motor vehicle and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle on July 9. Police said the woman was driving a 1999 Chevy north on Route 112 in Terryville at around 3 p.m. when police attempted to pull her over. As the officer approached her vehicle, the woman pulled away, almost striking two vehicles, and exceeded the speed limit on Route 112 before pulling over again. Police discovered Roxicodone, a prescription opioid, in her possession.

I saw the sign
A homeowner’s 10 “no parking” and “no trespassing” signs on North Country Road in Miller Place were spray-painted or torn down on July 10.

Lock ‘em up
A wallet full of credit cards and cash was reported stolen on July 8 from an unlocked 2007 Chevy parked at a residence on Ann Street in Miller Place.

Thumb war
A 56-year-old Miller Place man was charged with second-degree assault and second-degree menacing after he stabbed a man in the finger. The incident took place on July 8 at the suspect’s Avery Lane home.

Dashed board
On July 8 at 9 p.m., a Washington Avenue, Centereach, resident reported the dashboard of their 2010 Nissan was damaged.

Grocery games
A woman reported on July 7 that her wallet, with $2,000 in cash, was stolen from her shopping cart at the Centereach Mall Walmart.

Screened
A home on Rosemary Lane in Centereach had a window screen damaged on July 12.

Picking up
An unlocked 2008 Ford pickup truck parked at a Bank Street residence in Selden was robbed of a tablet and money on July 7.

File photo

Police charged a woman with reckless endangerment after she allegedly fired a rifle from her apartment balcony on Monday evening.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the 26-year-old suspect, a resident of the Brookwood Village apartments in Coram, fired the rifle multiple times into a wooded area near her apartment on Dunstan Place at 6:53 p.m.

Police said no one was hit by the shots and there was no property damage.

Officers arrested suspect Suzanne Pesola and recovered two rifles and ammunition, police said. The woman was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree criminal contempt.

Pesola has a previous charge pending against her, a harassment charge from late April. She was listed as being represented by Legal Aid in the New York State court system’s online database and attorney information on the newer charges was not immediately available.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 6th Squad are investigating the case. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8652.

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