Surprise turned to anger last week when Port Washington residents realized that a cover story in Newsday titled "Where Not to Park on LI" that branded their community a "car theft hot spot" was totally erroneous. The report, in the Long Island edition of Newsday on Jan. 18, claimed that there were 7.8 thefts per 1,000 in Port Washington, placing Port second on Long Island. (Hempstead was first, with a reported 8.75 thefts per 1,000; Freeport was third with 4.65 per 1,000.)
However, the population used for Port Washington was only 2,708, when in reality the population served by the Port Washington Police District is approximately 25,000 to 30,000. (Areas in Port Washington not included in this figure are the Village of Sands Point, which has its own police force, and the Village of Manorhaven, which is served by the Nassau County Police Department.) Also the number of stolen cars reported was incorrect - 22 vs. the actual number of car thefts -11 in 2003.
Newsday did print a retraction in its next issue, on page A8, reporting the correct statistics, which are only 11 thefts in 2003 based on the actual population, which translates into less than one theft per 1,000. This means that the Port Washington Police District has one of Long Island's lowest auto theft rates. This is much more in line with an area that pays more money in taxes for a private police force.
But many feel the retraction is only a half measure and want Newsday to do much more to repair any damage that could have possibly been done to property values, and our local businesses and restaurants.
Compounding the problem is the fact that other news services, like CBS news radio, reported the incorrect and damaging information.
An "irate" Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman and "outraged" PWPD Chief William Kilfoil Port Washington North Village are up in arms. Understanding the power of the media, the supervisor feels that the whole North Shore is now "smudged." He wants Newsday to correct its error in a meaningful way, "not with just a simple retraction."
"I'm disappointed that Newsday would do such a poor job when defining a community," he says, adding, "We deserve better than that, especially because Port is such a safe community."
Chief Kilfoil is anxious for the paper to "set the record straight." He too feels that the article implies that Port, and by extension the peninsula, is a "high crime" area. "We're taking this very seriously," said the chief.
Trustee Bob Weitzner also insists that Newsday remove the article from its website. He fears that Internet users will "Google" stolen cars, see Port with the stigma of being the second highest on the Island, and perhaps miss the retraction.
At press time, Supervisor Kaiman and Chief Kilfoil have a meeting scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 26, with editors for Newsday . They hope to see a story touting the fact that Port is a very safe area to live in, shop in, and especially dine in, placed in a prominent spot in the publication.