The Levittown Property Owners Association met on Feb. 10 with Vice President Andy Booth presiding in the absence of vacationing President Jim Morrow.
This was possibly the largest attendance (over 200) at a regularly scheduled monthly LPOA meeting since the "abandoned oil tanks left in-ground" issue of several years ago. The room has seating space for 140, but people were standing in the rear, sitting on windowsills and overflowing into hallways. The reason for the "charged up" crowd - the recent accelerated numbers of burglaries and vandalism incidents (tire slashing and thefts), break-ins and windows broken, graffiti) - and the invited guest speakers, officers from the 8th Precinct situated in Levittown.
The LPOA usually invites officers from the 8th Precinct later in the year; last June we were visited by former Commanding Officer Inspector Michael Cronin, who gave positive accounts of the low crime rates recorded in Levittown. But for the past few weeks, the LPOA has received numerous reports/complaints about burglaries and vandalism occurring mainly in northern Levittown; consequently, we requested the new commander of the 8th Precinct, Inspector Allen McGovern, to send a representative from the 8th Precinct to this meeting. The Inspector agreed to send an officer from the POP Unit (Problem Oriented Police). By the "grapevine," word circulated about the LPOA meeting and hence the large turnout of non-LPOA members as well as members.
Other speakers, who faced the contentious, confrontational group besides Inspector McGovern, were Nassau County Legislator Dennis Dunne, POP Officer David Rysdyk, two other policemen, one detective. Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilman Gary Hudes were unable to attend because they were at a town board meeting. There was vehement criticism of the perceived inaction of the 8th Precinct, especially from residents of homes located around the North Village Green, Sherwood Road, Bluespruce Lane, Old Farm, Wolcott Road, etc. where 10 burglaries occurred in less than three weeks since Jan. 16, with other numerous acts of vandalism occurring in the northern areas of Levittown. (The police pointed out the arrest of two burglars caught with a stolen laptop just days before.)
Nassau County Legislator Dennis Dunne, who grew up in Levittown, began by declaring his love for Levittown where he and four generations of his family live. Officer Rysdyk also grew up and lives in Levittown. Legislator Dunne said: "I refuse to let my family, friends and neighbors be scared to live in Levittown. We can stop these crimes by communicating with each other and the police, setting up neighborhood watch groups, working with personnel from the 8th Precinct, by saying something if you see something, by calling 911.
Officer Rysdyk stated that most of the burglaries occur between 2 and 9 p.m., while homeowners are away at jobs, through rear and side windows and doors. Small portable items such as cash, jewelry, laptops are taken in quick in/out jobs as burglars don't want confrontation. If called, the police go to the site, check for fingerprints, check parole or probation records of released culprits with previous burglar records, take reports from homeowners describing suspicious-looking "strangers" on streets or around the neighborhood or unfamiliar car licenses.
Inspector McGovern ran the gamut of people willing to cooperate with the police through communication, to others who spoke with unmistakable anger at rudeness and hostility shown by police when called to a trouble situation. He stated he "was not happy with what he was hearing," and asked the audience to "report such behavior from officers to his precinct." He said that "communities have changed in 20 years. We're living in tough times. You have the right to defend yourselves. The police are aware of problems which are recorded every day, but the quality of life is affected negatively by these smaller crimes." He promised to "do my best," and stressed the necessity of calling 911.
Many questions and comments directed to the police came from an audience evidently concerned and frustrated. Someone said, "We're all Joe the Plumber people like you and expect to be helped and protected by the police." Someone even suggested vigilante action with "taking back our streets" by homeowners. (Loud applause followed this.)
Legislator Dunne and the police agreed they will "fix these problems" by communication between the police, homeowners, parents (who should be involved when their kids are committing acts of vandalism, theft, etc.), elected officials. Dunne scheduled several meetings along with Councilman Gary Hudes and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murra. 8th Precinct officers (POP Unit) were present at these meetings to set up Neighborhood Watch programs and explain how they work.
Legislator Dunne, Inspector McGovern, Officer Rysdyk (POP Unit - telephone 573-6870) and the other officers stated: "The problems of neighborhood security can be solved by communication and cooperation among ourselves. The Inspector said, official patrol cars (already 17 by day, 18 at night) will be supported by additional unmarked cars and undercover personnel in troubled neighborhoods. Everyone agreed that police and the community must work together by communicating and by helping each other.
After most of the large crowd left, Vice President Andy Booth discussed other recent issues brought to his attention: complaints about illegal apartments and the ongoing oil tank investigation at LMEC.
The next meeting of the LPOA will be on March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Levittown Public Library.