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Suffolk County Police Department

File photo
By Aramis Khosronejad

An alarming larceny trend is rising in Suffolk County as thieves swipe wallets and credit cards from shopping carts at retail stores.

Between May and August 2023, Suffolk County Police Department 4th Precinct Inspector David Regina commented on the countywide increase in larcenies during the Smithtown Town Board’s meeting on Aug. 8. He attributed the spike to thefts from shopping carts.

The inspector described how offenders usually only take the victims’ wallets or even credit cards. Regina maintained that this leads to a dangerous problem and quandary for law enforcement: Victims are not immediately aware they’ve been robbed.

“What they’ll do is they’ll just take out the credit cards or the wallet,” Regina told the Town Board, “The victims will not know [because] it’s not like the whole bag is gone.”

When the victims discover they no longer have their cards or wallet, the suspect has already used their cards numerous times, racking up a substantial balance.

After using the credit cards, suspects will discard the cards, making it a “very hard crime to target,” according to Regina.

“There are many people that go for these opportunities,” he said. “This has been a significant portion of our larcenies.”

‘Overwhelmingly, they get away with it.’

— David Shapiro

As of now, SCPD is still investigating six larcenies of this variety. These thefts were reported and occurred between March and August of 2023. In addition, the department has alerted all shoppers not to leave their bags in their shopping carts unattended to avoid becoming victims of these thefts.

In a phone interview, David Shapiro, a distinguished professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, offered how the thieves identify their target victims.

“The victims are usually vulnerable,” he said, adding that victims are “usually unaccompanied” and, in most cases, “there’s no guardian there.”

Shapiro noted the ease with which these crimes are carried out, describing it as a “low-tech” offense and “a crime of opportunity.” Another incentive for the offenders to choose these kinds of scenarios is the low clearance rate, according to Shapiro.

“In other words,” he stated, “Overwhelmingly, they get away with it.”

According to the Suffolk County Police Department’s public information office, in all of the ongoing larceny investigations of this kind between March to August 2023, the perpetrators have attempted to use the victims’ credit cards.

Shapiro emphasized how profitable stolen wallets have become for thieves due to the factor of credit cards.

Shapiro commented that these crimes provide perpetrators with “some time to exploit the vulnerability of the online system, where you can spend rather quickly,” he added.

Other than the apparent financial threat of larcenies, another arguably more dangerous factor comes into play with stolen wallets and cards: identity theft.

Shapiro remarked on the possible threat of it, pointing out that in today’s time, “You have a lot of personal identifying information that is separately valuable apart from the currency,” he said, adding that all this personal information inside wallets holds a “value that may exceed the actual currency.”

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees was back before the public Monday night, Aug. 7, with discussions centering around public safety, mobility and Port Jefferson Country Club.

Sergio Möller, community relations officer for the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct, said motor vehicle accidents were up in July, attributing the spike to an increase in people during the downtown area’s busiest season.

He alerted residents to an ongoing gift card fraud trend throughout the county, saying that any solicitation for money in the form of a gift card is a scam.

PJV code enforcement chief Andy Owen reported on recent findings from his department’s speeding survey on Brook Road.

“As far as I’m concerned, it was a positive survey with positive results,” the code chief said.

Village of Port Jefferson code enforcement chief Andy Owen delivers his department’s monthly public safety report during a general meeting of the village Board of Trustees Monday, Aug. 7. Photo by Raymond Janis

Owen reported that in an ongoing speed survey at Scraggy Hill Road, the department observed some residents driving around the speed table on the street. He said the department is exploring extending the speed table to prevent this trend from continuing.

Parking and mobility administrator, Kevin Wood, updated the public on PASSPort, a village-operated municipal rideshare service created earlier this year. [See story, “Port Jeff Village to pioneer PASSPort…” March 31, TBR News Media.]

“We’re seeing between two and 12 rides per weekend,” Wood said, a ride volume “below our expectations.”

“We’re seeing very low usage for residents at this point,” he added.

Village clerk Sylvia Pirillo reported that the village’s municipal website “is in the process of being completely revitalized.” She noted that the website overhaul includes updates to promote user friendliness and a section on the landing page for employment opportunities.

PJCC’s general manager, Tom Natola, said the golf course is at the apex of its season, with heightened activity posing operational challenges for the village-owned country club.

Natola said the volume of play is adding pressure on PJCC’s parking lots. With so many people playing on the course during this time of year, he noted that basic maintenance repairs are further complicated.

The general manager stated that PJCC is exploring designs for new racket sports amenities. 

“Once the phase II [of the village’s East Beach Bluff Stabilization Project] is completed, we’re going to be redoing the paddle facility,” he said, with plans in the works for new tennis and pickleball courts.

However, he added, “The number of both we have not decided on yet because it depends on where the wall is going and how much space we actually have.”

The village board will reconvene Monday, Aug. 21, with a public hearing on proposed north- and south-facing stop signs on the west and east sides of Scraggy Hill Road.

To watch the entire meeting, including trustee reports, see video above.

Visitors to the information booth will be able to inscribe the name of a loved one lost to overdose on a purple rock. Photo courtesy of Leg. Kara Hahn's office

The Suffolk County Police Department is teaming up with parents who have lost a child to overdose or fentanyl poisoning to offer Narcan training and support at upcoming farmers markets.

This new outreach program, spearheaded by Deputy Police Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis and Carole Trottere, a mother who lost her son to fentanyl poisoning, is aimed at arming people with the training to save lives while also normalizing the conversation of addiction—an issue that touches many Long Island families.

In addition to offering Narcan training to individuals, parents will host an informational station and provide people an opportunity to inscribe the name of a loved one lost to overdose on a purple rock. The memorial rocks will be placed in parks and other locations as a reminder of lives lost to an overdose.

Members of the department conducted this event at the Port Jefferson Farmers Market in May and trained 100 people in Narcan. 

The department will continue to attend community events to spread awareness and offer this life-saving training, including at the Patchogue Farmers Market, corner of North Ocean Avenue and Division Street in the LIRR parking lot on Sunday, August 6  from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the Three Village Farmers Market on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Counry Road, Setauket on Friday, August 25 from 3 to 7 p.m. 

From left, PJSTCA President Ira Costell with Jessica Labia and Dwayne Brown of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association addressed issues regarding the unhoused at its general meeting Tuesday, July 25.

The civic meeting was joined by Father Francis Pizzarelli, founder and executive director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, as well as officers from the Suffolk County Police Department and members of an organization that helps the homeless 

During the meeting, Pizzarelli shared his experience assisting the homeless, including his meeting of a homeless Vietnam war veteran 35 years ago who was sleeping in a box village in the middle of winter.

The distraught veteran, who was most likely struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, came to Pizzarelli after one of his friends who was also living in the box village froze to death.

After finding there was little help offered for homeless veterans, Pizzarelli started Pax Christi Hospitality Center, an emergency shelter for men in Port Jefferson.

Pizzarelli expressed that a stronger partnership is needed between social services, the community and law enforcement. However, Pizzarelli also noted that law enforcement’s hands are tied in many situations, though they have always “been willing to be a part of the conversation.”

Pizzarelli highlighted the lack of treatment facilities and steps in place to help people in the homeless community.

“The social networking that was in place 35 years ago is nonexistent,” Pizzarelli said. “It’s just a repetitive cycle of setting people up for failure.”

For example, there is a lack of transitional housing for people once they leave a shelter such as Pax Christi, and the ones that are there, “you wouldn’t want a rat to live in,” he said.

A Suffolk County police officer spoke about what is and is not considered a crime when it comes to homelessness, and the role that the police can play.

“We’re not allowed to arrest people for being homeless, we’re not allowed to arrest people for begging,” the officer clarified.

“It used to be against the New York State Penal Law to stand in front of a business and beg. That was taken off the books, so what we’re left with is a [state] Vehicle and Traffic Law, because realistically, it’s not going to solve the problem, us arresting them at that specific moment,” the officer continued.

The officer said police can write a person a traffic ticket if they are on a road begging, which could possibly lead to a warrant and then an arrest, but reiterated the police cannot simply make an arrest for begging.

There are also laws in place that allow police to take a person into custody if they are deemed to be either a danger to themselves or others. However, the officer explained that the law’s threshold criteria is very high.

The police department has also put the Behavioral Health Unit to effect.

“We have these officers; they go out to these specific locations where the homeless people … are, and we try to attack it [by] offering them social services such as housing and drug counseling, and we hope that they will voluntarily take it,” the officer said.

Jessica Labia and Dwayne Brown of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless were also in attendance to speak on issues. Labia furthered the point of the lack of resources, saying, “The more resources that are put into folks that are experiencing homelessness or low income on Long Island, the more we’re able to help them get into housing.”

She also suggested that arresting homeless people wasn’t helpful, as it can make it more difficult to house people when they have a criminal history.

Labia and Brown reminded everyone that homelessness was not just in the Port Jefferson Station area, but rather Long Island as a whole has between 3,000 and 4,000 homeless people on any given night.

The executive board of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association met at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, May 23, expanding upon the priorities set forth by its newly installed executive board last month.

Civic vice president Carolyn Sagliocca, chair of the Land Use Committee, updated the body on a proposed zoning change for a 1.3-acre parcel located on Cherub Lane in Port Jefferson Station between Port Jeff Bowl and 7-11.

Sagliocca said those familiar with the proposed zone changes are “looking to change the zone to J-6,” a Main Street Business District classification under Brookhaven town code. She added, “They’re looking to put possibly a mixed-use — apartments, with possibly retail underneath.”

Given the space restrictions, the civic vice president noted developers are limited in densifying the lot, estimating the space could realistically accommodate only 10 to 20 units.

Just across the street from the Cherub Lane parcel, the proposed redevelopment at Jefferson Plaza — owned by Staller Associates — remained a central talking point for civic leaders, who reiterated concerns about density. 

“We already know about the density that we’re talking about at the Staller project,” civic president Ira Costell said. “To add even more of that right across the street is something we’re concerned about.”

Casey Berry, COPE officer for Suffolk County Police Department, delivered the report on public safety. Berry said crime throughout Port Jeff Station/Terryville had been down, noting that call volume from the area has fallen as well.

The COPE officer reminded residents to lock their doors and not leave their keys or key fobs in their vehicles as the vehicular theft crime phenomenon remains unsettled. [See story, “As vehicle thefts surge, Suffolk police detective warns against leaving key fobs in cars,” Feb. 4, TBR News Media.]

Comsewogue High School students Kylie and Max each delivered reports from the school district. Kylie said local Boy Scout Pack 354 had posted bins at schools throughout the school district for American flags to be retired.

The high school’s CCC Club recently took a field trip to Calverton National Cemetery, where club members helped clean graves and learned about the cemetery’s history, Kylie added.

Max reported on the recent successes of Comsewogue’s varsity athletic teams, with boys tennis and lacrosse and girls lacrosse all punching tickets to the postseason.

Lou Antoniello updated the body on the ongoing work within the civic’s Bylaws Committee, which has started reviewing the bylaws and exploring potential changes. Once the committee has reviewed all the bylaws, Antoniello said the committee would post the proposed changes on the civic’s website and present them at a later meeting to be voted on by the membership.

He emphasized that the bylaws would be a collaborative effort among members over several months.

“It’s not as if we have a committee that’s making changes to the bylaws, and nobody else has input,” he said. “Everybody will have input. Everybody will have the chance to read them, and then we’ll have 30 days before a final vote.”

The civic will not meet next month. The next meeting is on Tuesday, July 25.

From left, Brittany Villatoro and Angelina Smith have been missing since Sunday. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a 16-year old girl and a 13-year-old girl who were reported missing from Stony Brook on May 21.

16-year-old Brittany Villatoro and 13-year-old Angelina Smith were last seen leaving a home on Stony Brook Road together on May 21 at 5:45 p.m.

Villatoro is Hispanic, 5 feet 2 inches tall, 144 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Smith is Hispanic, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 185 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on their location to contact the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652 or 911.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney has announced that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, along with the Suffolk County  Police Department, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, has partnered with the Fund for  Animal Cruelty Treatment of Suffolk, Inc. (“FACTS”), a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization, for the utilization of their animal cruelty crime victims fund.

“Prosecuting an animal cruelty case is unlike any other crime, in that the evidence of the crime  consists of a living, breathing animal that needs to be cared for while the case or investigation is  pending,” said District Attorney Tierney. “Abused or neglected animals require a significant  amount of resources including veterinary care, shelter, transportation, medication, and food. We  have partnered with FACTS so that the money needed for the care and recovery of abused and  neglected animals can be funded by donations, alleviating the burden on Suffolk County  taxpayers.”

“FACTS is proud to partner with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County  Police Department and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office by providing costs of care that benefit  animal cruelty victims,” said Joyce Glass and Barbara Dennihy, co-founders of FACTS. “This  funding allows animal victims to receive necessary care while recovering and cases are pending.  FACTS meets an identified need during the investigation and prosecution of cases, focusing on  victims without a voice. Donations to FACTS allow us to speak for animal victims by providing  the care and treatment they deserve.”

“Animal cruelty cases are particularly disturbing as the victim is defenseless and voiceless,” said  Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison. “This new partnership ensures that  injured or neglected animals receive the necessary care they deserve while the case moves through  the court process. This is a win-win for animal rights as well as Suffolk County taxpayers.”

“Often times, when our Deputy Sheriffs are reporting to a domestic violence situation or similar  crime, they find animals that are also victims of cruelty or abandonment,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. “This partnership with FACTS will allow us to immediately get  these animals the proper treatment and housing they deserve without worrying about where the  funding for their care is coming from.”

Financial assistance from FACTS will help treat and care for animals that are victims of criminal  animal cruelty investigations that are being prosecuted by District Attorney Tierney’s Biological,  Environmental, and Animal Safety Team.

To kick off FACTS’ fundraising, Kristie Johnson, president of Foos Fire, Inc., a local Suffolk  County fire sprinkler business, and Kristie’s husband, Christopher Johnson, presented FACTS  with a $10,000 check.

If you would like to donate to FACTS, please visit www.FACTSSAVES.org, and click on the  “Donate Now” button.  You can also donate to FACTS on Venmo, to username @factssaves. Donations can be mailed to:  FACTS, 2168 Nesconset Highway, Suite # 310, Stony Brook, New York 11790.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, center, swears in Ira Costell, right, and Carolyn Sagliocca as president and vice president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. Photo by Raymond Janis

The newly reconfigured executive board of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association went straight to work Tuesday night during the body’s general meeting April 25.

Nearly six dozen people turned out as former civic president Ed Garboski and vice president Sal Pitti left their posts, transitioning leadership authority to Ira Costell and Carolyn Sagliocca, respectively. 

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant, former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and representatives of state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were all in attendance.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) officiated over a formal swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected civic officers. He thanked the departing civic leaders and congratulated their successors.

“There’s an energy in this community that we haven’t felt in years,” he said. “It’s a whole new optimism, and in large part, that’s because of the drive out of this civic organization.”

To Garboski and Pitti, the councilmember added, “You two are fantastic civic leaders, and I have every confidence that the new board will continue to focus and do the work that you’ve done.”

The newly reconfigured executive board of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association during a general meeting on Tuesday, April 25. Photo by Raymond Janis

Land use

Costell quickly got moving, announcing the creation of a land use committee headed by Sagliocca, which will monitor development and related land use activities within the hamlet.

Further expanding on this theme, Costell articulated his vision for overseeing the redevelopment of the area, narrowing his focus around the projected $100 million proposed investment into Jefferson Plaza, owned by Staller Associates.

“The Staller project is the keystone, if you will, about the entire development of our little hamlet,” he said.

Between the Jefferson Plaza proposal, several planned retirement communities throughout the hamlet and significant residential development in Upper Port, Costell described PJS/T as looking at challenges associated with population density.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us as an organization to register our desire and intention to seek new planning overall, to bring a traffic study and some of the impacts of all of these things cumulatively,” the civic president said. 

He added, “I’d like to go in front of the [Brookhaven] Town Board and express our concern that our little hamlet needs some attention, that we’ve gotten a whole lot of multifamily activity here that we welcome but want done in a fashion and manner that’s going to ameliorate the impacts on existing residents and invite new people in.”

Kornreich concurred with this assessment in part, stating that overdevelopment represents a danger to the quality of life in the area.

“I agree with you that overdevelopment is one of the gravest threats that we face in the destruction of the suburbs, both in respect to our way of life and from an environmental standpoint,” the councilmember said.

Town natural gas program

Kornreich informed the body on a cost-savings strategy for consumers of natural gas. 

Recently, the town launched its Community Choice Aggregation program, partnering with Manhattan-based Good Energy to deliver a fixed rate on natural gas at 69 cents per therm. [See story, “Community Choice Aggregation: Town of Brookhaven joins energy revolution,” March 9, TBR News Media website.]

The councilmember said ratepayers could potentially save hundreds of dollars per year by strategically opting in and out of the CCA program based on the gas price from National Grid.

“Essentially, you can opt in and out at any time as many times as you want for free,” he said.

To save money, he encouraged residents to closely monitor National Grid’s service rates, published at the beginning of every month. “When that price is lower than 69 cents, you stay on National Grid,” he said. “When it goes over, you switch over.”

Based on a model he had conducted for his bill measuring the CCA against the National Grid price, Kornreich projected he would have saved approximately $250 last year.

“This month, in the month of April, National Grid’s price is 35 cents a therm,” he said, adding, “It’s half the price of the CCA … so I’m opting out.”


A Suffolk County Police Department officer delivered a report on public safety, noting that the phenomenon of catalytic converter theft within the area remains ongoing. The 6th Precinct also observed a slight increase in petit larcenies from this time last year.

He remarked on the new speed cameras installed on the Long Island Expressway. [See story, “New York implements new work-zone enforcement program.”] . The officer reported that during testing, the cameras generated roughly 6,500 summons within a 45-minute window. 

“Please be careful when you get on the LIE,” he said, adding jokingly, “That’s not a county thing. That’s a state thing, so please don’t call us and complain.”

Comsewogue High School students Kylie and Max updated the civic on various developments within the school district. The Spanish Honor Society at the high school recently held a fundraiser to buy Progresso soup donated to the Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson.

Andrea Malchiodi, assistant director of Comsewogue Public Library, announced that the library is conducting a raffle for all cardholders as part of National Library Week. “We’re doing a huge raffle basket, so anybody who is a library card holder can go and put in a raffle to win this fun basket,” she said.

The library is also collecting pet food for a collection drive through Long Island Cares.

PJSTCA corresponding secretary, Charlie McAteer, reported that the town would be holding a Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 29, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Train Car Park in Port Jefferson Station.

McAteer also said that the Friends of the Greenway would conduct their next cleanup on Saturday, May 13, at 9 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Station trailhead. This cleanup will coincide with this year’s iteration of the Great Brookhaven Cleanup.

PJSTCA will meet again on Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at Comsewogue Public Library.

Stock photo

The Suffolk County Police Department will hold a property auction on Wednesday, April 26 at the Property Section, located at 30 Yaphank Ave. in Yaphank.

The auction will begin at 9 a.m. and will be held rain or shine. There will be a preview of the jewelry and select property on Tuesday, April 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Among the items being auctioned include jewelry, bicycles, tools, landscaping equipment, electronics, iPhones and more.

Participants must be at least 18 years old to bid. All items are sold in “as is” condition and must be purchased with cash.

For more information, please call 631-852-6862.

Narcan kits will be placed in close proximity to automated external defibrillators in county facilities. Stock photo

A new bill sponsored by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) has been approved by the county Legislature.

Her resolution requires kits of naloxone — or Narcan, its brand name — to be supplied in close proximity to automated external defibrillators  in all county facilities. The bill was co-sponsored by county Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park).

An April 4 press release stated that Narcan “is a lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when administered in a timely manner.” Hahn believes this bill will help to improve the outcomes of the opioid overdoses seen in the county.

Hahn has been passionate about fighting the opioid epidemic for more than a decade now. In April of 2012, she sponsored a resolution which enabled police officers to administer Narcan to overdose victims. The press release for the current resolution noted, “According to SCPD statistics, patrol officers equipped with Narcan have saved thousands of lives in the 10 years since the [original] bill was enacted.”

Old Field resident Carole Trottere came up with the idea for this legislation and brought it to Hahn’s attention only a few months ago.    

“It’s really a no-brainer,” Trottere said. “Put them in wherever we have AEDs. … If you save one life, it’s sparing the parents the horrible grief that I go through and giving someone a second chance to try to get into recovery.”

Trottere has been reaching out to grieving parent groups. “You cannot believe how many groups there are on Long Island alone and nationally of grieving parents who have lost children to fentanyl and overdoses,” she said.

She has also been working with the Suffolk County Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit. Trottere lost her son, Alex Sutton, to a drug overdose in 2018, and last year planned an event in memory of him at his favorite pizza place. Police attended and carried out Narcan training at the event. This is something they would offer to anyone else who would like to plan an event in memory of a loved one.

According to the press release, the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence also supports Hahn’s efforts.

She said this bill will be beneficial because Narcan kits need to be readily available. “What is frightening about the disease of addiction is that it can happen to anyone,” she added. “So it does need to be everywhere.” 

Hahn also mentioned that street drugs are now sometimes laced with fentanyl, so someone could be taking what they think is a simple Xanax, but it’s actually unexpectedly laced with fentanyl.

“It’s probably the person who unexpectedly overdoses that will benefit the most from its placement,” she said. “If it’s ubiquitously placed, then more people will be saved.”

Hahn said she’s working with local universities to build the pipeline of clinical social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists that can help people battling mental health issues. She indicated the system is under-resourced, and she would like to work toward strengthening child, adolescent, and adult mental health in our communities.