Police & Fire

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The new firehouse along King Road in Rocky Point has been in construction since May of last year, but fire district officials said they need more funds in order to fully complete the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Rocky Point Fire District is asking residents for an additional $1 million bond on top of existing money to help finish up the Station 2 firehouse construction project.

In 2017, 204 residents voted “yes” and 197 voted “no” for the new building to replace the original firehouse built in the 1950s, alongside the purchase of a new ladder truck. Costs for the building were estimated to be $7,250,000. On Sept. 1, Rocky Point fire commissioners voted to establish a new $1 million bond vote set for Oct. 13.

Rocky Point vice chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, David Brewer, said it is unfortunate but they lack much other choice than asking the community to go out for more project funding. 

“We’re not happy about this, but in order to complete this project we were forced to go out to the public for another bond,” he said. “I understand people are tight right now, but we have no choice because by law we are prohibited from spending any more for that building other than what was authorized by the bond.”

Officials said this new bond would result in an annual increase of $17 to $18 for the average household in the district. 

There were issues from the start of the project, Brewer said, with them having to break ties with the first project manager they hired for construction, which set them back on their timetable. Officials have previously said the first bids for construction companies came in too high, and then after putting the project out for bid again, they received too few. Construction of the project fully started in May 2019. 

“When we originally worked with the first project manager, after reviewing some information we were given, we felt that the projected costs and completion date were somewhat unrealistic,” Brewer said. “Because of the delays and because we started so far back, there have been increases for construction.”

The commissioner cited an increase in labor costs as much as 4.5%, an increase of materials from 4.5 to 5%. Then with the arrival of the pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of all construction projects until the first phase of reopening in May, commissioners were told they were required to “tack on” another 1% toward labor costs.

Without the additional funding, Brewer said they would have to make a drastic decision, which could mean even delaying the firehouse construction until they could go to a revote. The issue with any delay is that currently the Station 2 Black Sheep Company has relocated all its trucks, equipment and other apparatus to the warehouses of what was once the Thurber Lumber Company property. That site was loaned free of charge by developer Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties, though only temporarily as Baisch has slated the site for a new set of 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors inside 10 buildings located along Prince Road and King Road. 

Brewer said Baisch is currently building on the other side of the road, and would need the company to be out of the lumber warehouse by the end of the year if that project is to keep on schedule. 

“If that happened, I don’t know what we’d do,” Brewer added. “We just wouldn’t have anyone else who would be able to house our apparatus.”

Otherwise, without a vote, the commissioner’s vice chairman said they would need to cut away from the project, but he did not know what could possibly be removed or slimmed down, as the site was planned to be a no-frills firehouse.

“The building was proposed and designed very conservatively from the get-go,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of amenities and fluff we could cut, especially to reach the amount of money we need. We are really between a rock and a hard place here.”

The fire district is hosting the vote Oct. 13 at the Shoreham firehouse located at 49 Route 25A from 3 to 9 p.m. While district officials said they would not be offering absentee ballots, they would be ensuring people wear masks and socially distance while conducting polling. 

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating an incident during which a teenager was shot in Huntington Station early in the morning Sept. 8.

A 19-year-old female was on the first floor of a home located on East 9th Street, off Depot Road, when she was struck in the leg by one of several gunshots fired from outside the residence at approximately 12:45 a.m. The victim was transported to Huntington Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. There were no other injuries.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the shooting to contact the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.

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Donald Harrison, of PJS, was reported missing by police Sept. 8. Photo from SCPD

*Update: Police reported Sept. 8 that Donald Harrison, the Port Jefferson Station man who was reported missing Sept. 7, has been located, unharmed.*

Original story:

Police have issued a silver alert for a Port Jefferson Station man they said had dementia and may be in need of medical attention.

Suffolk County Police said Donald Harrison, 62 left a residence on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station Sept. 7 at around 8:15 p.m.

Harrison was described as white, 5 feet 11 inches tall, 200 pounds with greying hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a grey sweatshirt.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Harrison’s location to call 911 or the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Official sources said constables and a small group of young men got into a physical confrontation in the alleyway beside Chase Bank. Photo from Google Maps

A small group of young people got into a physical confrontation with Port Jefferson constables Wednesday, Sept. 2 after blocking traffic on Main Street. Officials said one code enforcement officer later required a visit to the hospital because of injuries sustained during the incident. 

Witnesses said a group of around a dozen young people, some with bikes and some without, stopped at the Starbucks along Main Street sometime after 3 p.m. When some young people went in to get drinks, one got into the middle of the street, stopped traffic and performed a few feats of acrobatics such as a backflip, cheered on by his friends on the sidewalk. Shortly after, the young man then sat “indian style” in the double yellow median in the middle of the busy street. 

Bystanders, fearing for the young man’s safety, called code enforcement, who arrived shortly after to confront the young men and get them to move from the street and their bikes from the curb.

In response to a request for details on the incident, Suffolk County Police said a group of teens on bicycles were blocking traffic on Main Street in Port Jefferson just before 4 p.m. Sept. 2 when they were told by code enforcement officers to move out of the roadway. Police said that the teens allegedly did not immediately comply and one of them pushed a code enforcement officer. 

Witnesses said the confrontation on Main Street moved to the alleyway beside Chase Bank, where some described that the confrontation became physical between constables and the young bikers. Details from witnesses on what transpired were imprecise, but official sources did confirm there was some kind of violent contact between at least one young man and code enforcement officers. 

Deputy Village Attorney Richard Harris said Code Enforcement Chief Fred Leute went to a hospital later that Wednesday night for injuries sustained during the encounter. Harris added that police told the village they were looking into charges. The village is still awaiting any further details from Suffolk County Police.

Village Trustee Kathianne Snaden, the liaison to code enforcement, said the altercation took place between just a few of the young men and code officers in the Chase Bank alleyway. Po

“[Police] have this case now under investigation,” Snaden said.

Police said that 6th precinct officers are still investigating, though they did not reveal if there were any arrests or charges filed.

For months residents have complained about groups of young bikers all across Suffolk County, either them doing tricks in the middle of busy roads or playing chicken with cars. Police have encouraged parents to talk to their children about the dangers of blocking traffic and riding in the middle of roads, but there have been more violent confrontations.

In early August, a large number of young bicyclists numbering around 30, according to witnesses and a now-removed video published to social media, harassed members of the Crossfit DHP gym in Port Jefferson Station. Shortly after that incident, police said two young men, both 15 years old of Centereach, were arrested later at their homes for violent actions during the August altercation. Police withheld the individuals’ names as they are both minors.

Mike Napoli, the owner of Gourmet Burger Bistro on Mill Creek Road, said he has personally had to deal with these young bicyclists on a regular basis throughout the summer. At one point, he said he confronted a group of about 20 who were outside his business when they were hosting outdoor dining.

“There’s families with young children, and [these young bicyclists] are doing wheelies, screaming, cursing in front of these people while they’re trying to eat,” Napoli said. “It’s a bad situation that needs to be stopped. The biggest problem is these kids know they can get away with things.”

 

Commanding Officer Michael Romagnoli, left, addresses members of the community at a meeting outside the 4th Precinct in Smithtown Sept 1. Fellow officer, Sgt. Thomas Healy, looks on. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

Inspector Michael Romagnoli, commanding officer of Suffolk County’s 4th Precinct in Hauppauge, presided over a community meeting outside the precinct Sept. 1, covering a wide array of topics relevant to businesses and residents within the area. It was the first such meeting since March.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a seemingly endless backdrop of everyday life, and has caused economic hardship, job losses and business closures across Suffolk County and elsewhere.  As these conditions inevitably lead to crime, Romagnoli has a simple piece of advice for the residents of Smithtown.

“Lock your doors,” he said, almost putting an exclamation point after each of these three small words. “Your cars, your side doors, your back doors, your shed and your garages — lock them all.”

This warning is in reference to the spate of attempted car break-ins and petty larcenies in the early morning hours of Aug. 26. However, he stressed that it would be a mistake to consider this a crime wave.

“There is no pattern that I can see here,” the inspector said. “These are just some people who are looking for opportunity. We are keeping a careful eye on it, but we need to see more than one occurrence to formulate a method of operation.”

He did acknowledge that cars and outdoor sheds were broken into on or near Harvard Avenue near Maple, and at least one generator was taken, along with various valuable power tools, video equipment and scooters.

“We are going to go through some of the Ring doorbell footage, and we strongly encourage anyone who has footage to contact us immediately,” Romagnoli said.

Contacting the police was another topic of conversation, which community liaison officer Sue Laveglia discussed with the audience of about 30 interested listeners, who were assembled outside the precinct, wearing masks and seated in a socially distant manner.

“With COVID-19 still a presence in our community, we encourage people to use [our] website to file a nonemergency police report,” Laveglia said. “We hope this encourages the reporting of incidents and at the same time limits officer and civilian exposure to the coronavirus.”

The link to making a police report online is: suffolkpd.org/onlinereporting.aspx. The officers ask that you review and adhere to the criteria listed before submitting a report.

Thirty-seven officers have required quarantine since the pandemic started, and one officer actually had three separate exposures. The precinct has taken ergonomic measures and provides masks and hand sanitizers in an effort to mitigate exposure.

Not wanting to play second fiddle to COVID-19, protest marches have been and still are on Romagnoli’s docket.  He has had to deploy manpower, manage morale and devise traffic-control procedures. It does not make it an easier task when many of these protests are a direct attack on, and call for reform on, his profession and the men and women he oversees.

“When I put on that uniform, I represent every person in this community,” he said. “Every one of my officers has sworn to uphold the constitution, and I try to stress that to them every day.  This job is not easy. We’re human and when people are yelling the most vile things about what they think of you, your profession and sometimes your family members, it’s difficult.  People are angry.  I get it.  My job is to turn down the temperature and train my officers to do this as well, despite what you hear.”

He had some simple strategies for doing this.

“Rotate officers back off the line when I sensed they’ve had enough that week,” he said.  “I strongly encourage them to take time off and always give them a good idea of what they are facing.”

Romagnoli estimated the number of protests to be in the 40s and counting, with over 5,000 people combined to have marched in the streets of Smithtown. This accounts for about 20-25% of the protest activity in the county, he said. The majority of these were focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, but some were abortion, Blue Lives Matter and reopen New York-related as well.

Other topics were discussed at the Sept. 1 meeting.

There have been 41 drug overdoses in July and August of this year in Smithtown compared to 20 for the same period last year. Year to date, there have been 135 overdoses and 27 drug-induced deaths.

Romagnoli was effusive in his praise for business’s overall compliance with COVID mask-wearing and distancing state mandates. The police have worked closely with the state police and the State Liquor Authority in the monitoring of restaurants and like establishments. While “a number” of warnings have been issued, there has yet to be a summons doled out.

Laveglia warned citizens of the preponderance of scams that are circulating, especially advertisements that claim to cure COVID-19. 

The Suffolk County Police Department as a whole is overwhelmed with gratitude by all the food and other donations it has received.  These donations are a show of support of police and other front-line workers in the face of all the dangers and pressures they have faced this year. Romagnoli was visibly emotional when he spoke of this community support.

He hopes to resume having these meetings on a more regular basis. They are held the first Tuesday of every month and there is expected to be one Oct. 6.

Anyone with information regarding a crime in their neighborhood, in addition to the website, can call 631-852-COPS. Also, as part of a collaboration with Ring, police can communicate with members of the public through Ring’s Neighbors app. The Neighbors app is a platform for members of the community to connect about incidents occurring in their neighborhoods and ask residents of specific areas if they have video that could potentially contain information useful in criminal investigations.

Police are seeking a woman for allegedly stealing from an East Northport Store. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate a woman who allegedly stole merchandise from an East Northport store in August.

A woman allegedly stole miscellaneous items from Ocean State Job Lot, located at 3083 East Jericho Turnpike Aug. 14.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an
arrest. Anyone with information about this incident can contact Suffolk County Crime
Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app
which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or
online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

A Confederate flag displayed on the side of a Brookhaven Fire Department truck has caused outcry from multiple levels of government and many in the surrounding community.

This photo has gone viral on social media showing a Brookhaven Fire Department ladder truck sporting the Confederate battle flag.

A picture of the Confederate battle standard draped on the side of a ladder truck from the Brookhaven hamlet, showed up on social media where it went viral Sunday, Aug. 30. Many who saw it complained that it was a display of racism, especially in light of recent national dialogue about its use by white supremacists and the history of the Confederacy’s promotion of slavery.

In a statement, Brookhaven FD Chief of Department Peter Di Pinto said that the action was not authorized by the department and was done without its knowledge. The statement says the incident involved one firefighter acting alone during a non-response event. Di Pinto said the matter is currently under investigation, and therefore couldn’t release any further details.

“We can assure our community that ‘Racism has no home in our firehouse,’” the statement read.

That event was reportedly a fire truck parade in Patchogue to support a firefighter with cancer. Other department vehicles were present at the event though none other than the Brookhaven truck reportedly appeared with the Confederate flag.

While the The Town of Brookhaven and the Brookhaven Fire Department are separate entities, the town was also quick to condemn the flag.

“The Town Board condemns the display of this symbol of racism and hatred in the strongest possible terms and is calling for this fire department to launch an investigation into this matter and take immediate and serious action in response,” the town said in a statement. “Brookhaven town has been built upon a history of inclusion and diversity. Our cemeteries contain the graves of men who gave their lives fighting against this flag. This flag is a symbol of hatred, and there is no place for it, or the racism it displays, in our town.”

While on Facebook County Executive Steve Bellone (D) thanked the fire department for looking into the matter, he said that he was calling on the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and New York State Division of Human Rights to also investigate the incident.

“The public also must have confidence that any review of this matter is handled independently to ensure a fair and impartial outcome,” Bellone said in a statement. “Hate and bigotry have no place in Suffolk County and we must demonstrate that we take these matters seriously.”

File photo.

Suffolk County Police said a woman was arrested Saturday Aug. 29 for allegedly driving while intoxicated when she struck a pedestrian in Mount Sinai.

Jennifer Hohn, 50 of St. James, was driving a 2018 Toyota northbound in front of 745 Mount Sinai Coram Road, when she allegedly crashed the vehicle into a parked 2010 GMC pickup truck occupied by a man and woman, which then struck a man on a bicycle who was leaning against the truck from the right shoulder of the road at 2:27 a.m. Hohn then crashed the Toyota into a sign, a mailbox and a fence.

The pedestrian, Jason Sciortino, 40, of Port Jefferson Station, was transported by Port Jefferson EMS to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Following an investigation by 6th Squad detectives, officers charged Hohn with driving while intoxicated. She was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 29. She is next set to appear in first district court Sept. 2.

Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the incident to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D). File photo

A Mount Sinai man was officially sentenced in Suffolk County Supreme Court Wednesday, Aug. 26 for an alleged scheme to defraud people about a fake recycling plant in upstate New York.

Between August 2010 and November 2017, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said Joseph Prosa, 53, of Mount Sinai, operated a money-making scheme where he claimed to victims that he was seeking investments to build a recycling facility in Poughkeepsie, telling them he owned land for the facility, that he had a permit and that he was a recycling and plant construction expert for a process called “gasification,” or the process of burning garbage for use in things like boilers furnaces and gas engines. Prosecutors said none of this was true. 

Through the scheme, Prosa stole around $3.6 million from a blind Poughkeepsie man in his 80s. The man has since passed away. He also allegedly stole around $250,000 from a second victim who resides in Suffolk County. Both victims were previous acquaintances of Prosa’s, the DA’s office said.

“This was a grossly deceitful scheme in which the defendant stole millions of dollars from his victims, including a senior citizen who was robbed of his life savings,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “He operated this scheme out of pure greed and callousness.”

The DA said the investigation revealed Prosa used the stolen money on personal expenses, including using more than $1.2 million in casinos and racehorse gambling. An additional amount was used to purchase a racehorse. The defendant also used the stolen funds to repay large amounts of debt incurred by gambling and to pull his house out of foreclosure.

Prosa was indicted in December 2018 and he pled guilty May 18, 2019.

Prosa was sentenced by Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho for first degree grand larceny and first degree scheme to defraud. The sentence incurs 2 ½ years to 7 ½ years for the grand larceny and 1 to 3 years for the scheme to defraud. The sentences will run concurrently.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides, currently of the Conviction Integrity Bureau.

 

File photo

By Kyle Barr and Rita J. Egan

Cops said that over the past week there have been a rash of car thefts and vehicle break-ins within the Three Village area.

Now several Port Jefferson residents have also reported vehicles were stolen from their property as well, though police said they are still investigating if the same perpetrators were committing the robberies in both areas.

Suffolk County Police provided TBR News Media a list of 16 total car thefts and break ins. The list shows a total of four cars were stolen from residences in Stony Brook Aug. 23. Two of those vehicles, a 2020 Nissan and a 2019 Volkswagen were recovered — the former was found in Connecticut while the latter was located in Stony Brook. Two other cars, a 2016 Mazda and a 2009 Acura, have so far not been located, according to police.

The 12 other incidences were petit larcenies of property from cars in Stony Brook, Setauket and Old Field. Several items electronics like laptops or earphones, while others were purses, money and car keys. All incidents took place within the 6th precinct.

Suffolk County Police Detective Lt. Sean Beran said all incidents were from unlocked vehicles. The investigation is ongoing, according to Beran, though he added there are a couple of people of interest.

Uniformed and plainclothes personnel have been patrolling the area, and the Special Operations Team has been assigned to the case. Beran said no additional break-ins or thefts were reported after Aug. 23 in the Three Village community.

Beran said it’s important for car owners to remember to lock their vehicles, make sure they have their car key FOB and remove belongings even when parking a car in a driveway.

Police confirmed that more car thefts have since been reported by locals in the Port Jefferson area as well. A man in the Harbor Hills section of the village on Landing Lane said two cars were stolen from his driveway at around 1:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28.

One vehicle was a 2020 Honda Accord and another was a 2016 Honda CRV, according to the Port Jefferson man’s posts on social media. Cops also said that a 2013 Mercedes was also stolen from Sands Lane in Port Jeff. That vehicle has since been recovered nearby.

Police said it is still under investigation whether the Three Village and Port Jeff car thefts are connected.

People can contact the 6th Precinct with information at 631-854-8652 or submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com.