Debate focuses on bar fights downtown, narcotics uptown
Residents and village officials butted heads with a police lieutenant on Monday night, debating the level of coverage officers provide in Port Jefferson.
The downtown commercial district, with its numerous bars and restaurants, is busy on summer nights, particularly on the weekend. Village officials have lobbied over the years to increase Suffolk County police presence downtown during those peak times, and to have more bodies in the uptown area, which sees criminal activity such as drug sales and has a consistent homeless population.
Lt. Donato Mignone said at the village board meeting Monday that there are additional officers patrolling Port Jefferson on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, pointing out that the village gets more police coverage relative to its number of police incidents. Mignone said of the 7,800 incidents the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct handled in July, 385 of them were in Port Jefferson.
While he agreed the village deserves more attention than it gets, the department is working with limited resources and “you want to be wise with your manpower.”
But Trustee Larry LaPointe argued, “If you’re not here, there is no incident to report. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there to hear it, the tree didn’t fall. That’s what’s happening in this village.”
The trustee called for more police coverage.
“There’s too much violence downtown,” LaPointe said.
The lieutenant said he would pass on the village’s concerns to his superiors. He added, “I absolutely understand, I agree, I commiserate.”
Later in the meeting, after Mignone left, LaPointe said the village might take its fight to a higher level, like the county executive’s office, if things don’t change.
“It’s their job to keep our community safe,” the trustee said. “We will exhaust every possible avenue that we can think of to bring our needs and our concerns to their attention and to push our case as hard as we can.”