Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 24 February 2012 00:00
On the eve of a vote that could shut down four police precincts in Nassau County and convert them to community policing centers, officers with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) once again presented their case against the proposal.
In a meeting with editors of Anton Community Newspapers, PBA President James Carver and his associates claimed that the proposed closures would result in less services at the community centers than what existed at precinct stationhouses. They also disputed claims made by Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Dale that crime has decreased in Nassau County and in general, they made the case that precinct stationhouses are essential to combating crime and performing needed services.On Monday, Feb. 27, the Nassau County Legislature will hold its final public hearing on the plan. That body also plans to vote on the matter at that meeting. The hearing will be held at 11 a.m. at the legislative chambers on 1150 Franklin Ave., Mineola
PBA President James Carver, plus fellow members Bob Rittinger and Jeff Tobin also criticized the plan on safety and administrative measures. They said, for instance, that detectives would no longer be stationed at the proposed community centers. The officials said that one-third of all case reports taken at precincts are referred to the Detective Division and in the future, residents would either have to travel to a stationhouse with a detective or wait for a detective to come to that particular police center.
In addition, PBA officials warned of complications in the arrest process. Noting that over 15,000 arrests and 4,500 fingerprints were processed in police precincts last year, they warned that having only four precincts would not be enough to handle such an arresting processing load, claiming that the overload could result in “danger to the public, the police officers and the arrestees.”
In making the case for the proposed closures, Acting Police Commissioner Dale has said that the police department’s 177-patrol car body would remain intact. He also said that 48 positions would be redeployed at the discretion of local commanders.
But Carver claimed that the Problem Oriented Police (POP) officers would be “married to the stationhouse.” Carver said that it takes six police officers to fill each spot per 24 hours. The new plan, he added, calls for two police officers to staff each of the proposed community centers 24 hours a day. And so, the 48 new positions, Carver claimed, would be occupied with office work.
“[Police will be] buried in computers and not on the street like they used to be,” Tobin said.
The precincts set to be closed under the new plan are the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh. Carver was particularly critical of the plan to eliminate the Elmont stationhouse and “shoveling” its functions to the Hewlett precinct. He said that Elmont was one of the busiest stationhouses and that the Fifth Precinct it serves has one of the county’s highest crime rates. Carver claimed that if former legislator John Ciotti had been re-elected last November, then the Elmont stationhouse would have been left alone.
At the Feb. 13 hearing at the Legislature, Dale said that overall crime in the county has been reduced by 11 percent. He also touted the effectiveness of Shot Spotter technology that he said had reduced violent crime, including homicide, rape, assault, and gun-related violence by significant margins in the Uniondale-Roosevelt area where it has been deployed.
Carver agreed that Shot Spotter is “great technology,” but he added that once deployed, criminals simply move elsewhere to where such technology is not in use. The officials also released crime statistics for both 2011 and the early part of this year, ones that they said came from the police department’s website. They said that in 2011 major crimes increased by .38 percent, but that in the first month of 2012, they have increased by 14.96 percent.
In the precincts targeted for closure, commercial robberies, they said, increased 27.59 percent in 2011 for the First Precinct. Residential burglaries increased 30.94 percent in that same precinct.
For the other precincts, the numbers were similar, with robbery reports up 17.07 percent in the Fifth Precinct and 237 percent in the Sixth Precinct. They increased by 100 percent in the eighth precinct, PBA officials said.
In Nassau County overall, in the communities patrolled by Nassau County Police, burglaries reported to county police are up 69 percent in the first six weeks of this year compared to last year over about the same time period, the PBA stated. They also stated that in the same overall area, reported residential burglaries have gone up 111 percent in the first six weeks of this year.
In all, the precinct houses, Carver said, provide a variety of services, including accident reports, police lineups, identification, and witness statements, becoming a place of convenience for local residents. In his testimony on Feb. 13, Dale said that 911 calls go to a call center, which in turn, notify police cars. Stationhouses aren’t involved in such transactions, he said, and so, Dale claimed, there would be no change in response times.
Carver admitted that two stationhouses could possibly be eliminated under a new reorganization plan, while adding that his organization would never advocate a property tax increase. But Carver did criticize the county’s priorities, including installing and maintaining artificial turf at certain parks, the renovation at One West Street (Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola), and what he claimed were 200 new patronage jobs. Carver and Rittinger said the county should consider letting road maintenance be administered by the villages and privatizing parks rather than closing precinct stationhouses.
In addition to safety issues, Carver also criticized the way the debate has been carried out. He said there should have been “multiple hearings” over a several months period, while adding that there has been, so far, “no meeting where the public agreed with them (the county’s position) over us.” Carver said that the PBA has offered concessions on “broader issues,” but he could not be more specific.
“I have serious concerns regarding the proposed precinct closures,” said Legislator Wayne Wink (D. -Roslyn). “This administration has time and time again set forth drastic policy changes that not only shift by the hour but rarely realize the promised savings. Whether it is the privatiza-tion of Long Island Bus, the hundreds of layoffs of county workers made late last year, or the expected new revenues from expanding the county’s sewer taxes, this administration has oversold and under-delivered at every turn. Unfortunately, with this track record, it is difficult to believe that the proposed precinct closures will not result in dramatic cuts in the police protection we deserve.”
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s column titled “Nassau’s New Community Policing Plan” appears on the editorial pages of all Anton Community Newspapers this week.