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Despite online social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter growing in popularity, not all dialogue can successfully survive in cyberspace and the need for face-to-face community forums still remains and was evident at the Hicksville Gardens Civic Association's (HGCA) March 12 meeting.

At this time, approximately 65 residents gathered at the Hicksville Public Library as HGCA welcomed a representative from the Nassau County Police Department's 8th Precinct and an oil heating specialist. The overall theme of the evening was take control: get involved with your community, take control of your home heating fuel costs and remain vigilant with matters of community and personal safety.

During the meeting, Sergeant Michael Salvemini of the 8th Precinct reported on several burglaries affecting the Hicksville community. He said that over the last four to six months, the precinct has had eight burglaries - five residential and three commercial.

According to Salvemini, of the residential burglaries, three occurred on 7th and 8th Streets within a two- to three-day period back in February. Salvemini described an incident in which two officers working a midnight tour observed a white van in the area. When they attempted to pull over the driver, Salvermini said, the van fled and a police pursuit ensued, continuing into Queens with the assistance of the New York Police Department. The chase was eventually cancelled but, according to Salvemini, the driver returned to the scene.

"Probably around 4:30 in the morning two other officers were sitting in the back streets around 7th Street [when] they observed a white van again," said Salvemini. "The driver was apprehended and the vehicle was impounded." Unfortunately, however, no proceeds from the burglaries were uncovered and therefore the driver could not be arrested for the burglaries in the area. He was, however, arrested for vehicle and traffic violations and other minor crimes.

According to Salvemini, "since then, the burglaries in that area have stopped, so we believe, we can't say for sure, we believe that it's possibly that subject." He urges residents to keep an eye out. "Our patrols, we believe, have helped, but as much as our patrols have helped, a lot of it is up to you," said Salvemini. "If you see somebody walking around 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night, and you feel that person doesn't belong in the neighborhood, don't ever hesitate to call us."

While the sergeant said the police department "always needs the community's help," he added that it is important for residents to remember that they shouldn't get physically involved. "Don't ever go near a person that you think may be involved in a burglary or other crimes," he urged. "Your best bet is to call us." Salvemini added that, in most cases, "a burglar is in and out of your house, probably in a minute, minute and a half. They go right into your house, go up to the master bedroom, steal jewelry, cash and then they leave ... Believe it or not, a burglar is probably more scared of you, than you are of him."

According to Salvemini, burglaries tend to occur during working hours, between 1-4 p.m., and urged residents to notify police if they notice a van with no identifiable lettering or company name and a driver wearing a uniform. "It can't hurt to call us. At least we can investigate it and get information," he said.

Although it may seem obvious, Salvemini reminds residents to lock their home's windows and doors. The police sergeant said that, in the case of the February burglaries on 7th and 8th Street, the homes were accessed via rear windows and, in two of the three burglaries, the windows were unlocked.

He also urged residents to keep their vehicles locked, regardless of whether they are parked in a driveway or on the street, and said it is particularly important to remember not to leave GPS systems visible. "Take it down. Take it in the house. [Put it in] the glove box. Just don't leave it up," he said.

From personal safety and community awareness, to home heating economics, the idea is the same: take control. Following Salvemini's presentation the civic association welcomed George Gruber, an oil heating specialist for almost 30 years who discussed ways to control home heating costs with residents.

To do so, said Gruber, it is most important for homeowners to take control of their boiler temperature. "Take control of the temperature in your home. Lowering the temperature for up to eight hours of the day or 16 hours per day for the working period and sleeping period" will bring phenomenal savings, said Gruber, who added that "a concerned [oil heating] company will do the best they can to help you use the least amount of fuel as possible." In terms of thermostat control, one resident asked what the maximum difference in temperature setting would be in order to maintain efficiency. According to Gruber, "five degrees is the optimum recovery" for the point of diminishing return, reminding customers to "set back at least twice a day."

Gruber assures residents that oil heat is very safe. "I'd rather be in the basement with a gallon of fuel on the floor than the equivalent of gas in the air," he said. "The ultimate outcome can be unspeakable between the two."

In terms of economics, unlike public utilities and gas customers, fuel oil heat customers benefit from competition for competitive pricing, said Gruber.

During the meeting it was announced that HGCA, in conjunction with other Hicksville civic associations, will participate in the first Civic Cleanup Day on May 2 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Residents at the monthly meeting voted on several proposed sites and, in a popular vote, HGCA will prioritize cleaning efforts, manpower permitted, as follows: the Route 107/South Oyster Bay Road triangle; the Star Diner triangle at Old Country Road; Plainview Road/South Oyster Bay Road; the Bagga triangle on Lee Avenue/South Broadway; and main roads such as New South Road, South Oyster Bay Road, Route 107 and Jerusalem Avenue and the downtown hub near the Sweet Shop and former movie theater.

HGCA is seeking volunteers to assist with site cleanup. For additional information or to sign up, contact your civic association or HGCA by email at info@hgcivic.org or visit www.hgcivic.org.


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