A deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado has spurred Suffolk County into action with a growing police presence surrounding similar clinics in Huntington and Smithtown.
Robert Lewis, 57, allegedly opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 27, killing three and injuring nine, according to published reports in the Associated Press. And while the horrific scene may have occurred more than 1,000 miles away, the Suffolk County Police Department said it was taking no chances when it comes to protecting clinics on the Island.
In a statement, the department said it would be increasing patrols near the five Planned Parenthood clinics throughout Suffolk, including those at 755 New York Ave. in Huntington and 70 Maple Ave. in Smithtown. Police vehicles were stationed at both buildings for much of the week so far, but the department said there were not any credible threats targeting any county clinics.
“While no specific threats have been made toward Planned Parenthood locations in Suffolk County, the department will enhance patrols and remain in contact with other law enforcement agencies for the most up-to-date information regarding the potential for similar attacks,” the department said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood clinics also reside in Patchogue, Riverhead and West Islip.
When reached for comment, both the Huntington and Smithtown Planned Parenthood clinics deferred to a statement from Reina Schiffrin, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, who spoke of grief for those affected by the horrific shooting.
“The hearts of the staff at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic are with the families of the victims of this senseless tragedy, as well as our colleagues across the country and particularly PP of the Rocky Mountains,” she said. “The safety and security of our patients and staff has always been our top priority, and we are very grateful to the Suffolk County Police for their response to this event and for expanding their presence at our five health centers in Suffolk County. Our doors remain open and we will continue to provide high quality health care to the women, men and teens of Suffolk County.”
Suffolk County cops also teamed up with Planned Parenthood administrators this week to offer crime prevention training, the department said in a statement. The goal of the crime prevention program, the department said, is to reduce opportunities for crime at sensitive locations while also combatting fear.
“Suffolk Police officers will assess the locations and provide information on how building design and environmental influences can affect human and criminal behavior,” the department said in a statement. “Officers will speak to Planned Parenthood officials about the importance of camera systems, target hardening, natural surveillance, facility access control, and territorial reinforcement which may be used to decrease crime.”
Planned Parenthood has roughly 700 health centers across the country, with each clinic serving as a hub for affordable health care and sex education. Its practices have been an ongoing source of controversy, mostly relating to its work in providing abortion and greater contraception services for women.