Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 04 November 2011 00:00
Village of Westbury officials and local police representatives explained the steps currently being taken to address the situations and offered suggestions as to how community members can be a part of the solution.
“Tonight’s meeting was called to address reports that we received of suspicious vehicles within the Village of Westbury, as well as a number of burglaries which took place in the Carle Place area over the past week or two,” said Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro.
“One of the suspicious vehicles in question has moved out of our community, and we have a report that it’s elsewhere at this point in time,” he continued.
Cavallaro added that the police department stopped the vehicle for questioning, but that there was no probable cause to make an arrest.
“Probably the only violation that they committed is that they did not have a peddler’s license, which the village does require to go door-to-door,” he stated.
Cavallaro also informed the community that, on the other hand, there was an arrest made the night before in the investigation of the Oct. 17 armed robbery of Westbury Art & Photo on Post Avenue.
Third Precinct Inspector Kevin Canavan discussed the police department’s efforts in investigating recent local crime activity, including the Carle Place burglaries.
“The police department is shifting into intelligence-driven law enforcement, where we’re trying to pinpoint what’s happening, when it’s happening,” stated Canavan. He added that patrols are concentrated at “certain times of the day and night where and when we feel we have the best chance of coming up with positive results.”
Continued Canavan, “We also work with teams from outside commands, including the Bureau of Narcotics and the Bureau of Special Operations. They’re working with both our uniformed and plainclothes cops to attack these specific problems.”
The inspector also explained the police department’s increased use of vehicle stops.
“We’ve increased our vehicle and traffic law enforcement because it’s a good intelligence tool as well as a safety measure,” said Canavan.
“We’re not stopping people who aren’t doing something wrong, so if people are doing something wrong while in their vehicle, the cops are stopping them, finding out what’s going on and then taking enforcement action,” he continued.
Canavan stated that this combined approach was successful in investigating a recent spate of copper piping burglaries in New Cassel, and the same tactics are being applied in analyzing the Carle Place burglaries.
“We feel that these burglaries aren’t random. It’s a very specific, targeted issue, and that’s the way we’re attacking it,” said Canavan.
Mayor Cavallaro added that the village has supplemented police surveillance by stepping up code enforcement visibility within the village boundaries.
“We’ve had our code enforcement vehicles making additional patrols, visible with their lights on, throughout some of the neighborhoods in the village that have been affected by this conduct and some of the sightings of these suspicious vehicles,” said Cavallaro.
Officer Sharon Galvin of the Nassau County Police Department’s Community Affairs Unit spoke about the potential benefits of Neighborhood Watch Programs.
“A Neighborhood Watch Program is a partnership between the police department and the residents and merchants of a certain community,” Galvin explained.
“You know your communities better than anybody, and since police officers cannot be on every street at every minute, Neighborhood Watch Programs help us tremendously,” she continued.
“It’s important to remember that community watch members do not take police action by confronting anyone. You’re there to observe and watch, and share information.
“For example, if you’re a resident who is home at certain hours during the day when other people might be working, you would be more likely to notice unusual circumstances, such as a car that doesn’t belong in the neighborhood,” Galvin stated.
Galvin described the program as being similar to a “phone tree” system. A designated “block captain” for approximately every 10 houses in a neighborhood would forward questions and concerns from those residents to the program coordinator, who would supervise all the blocks in that neighborhood. The coordinator would act as a direct community liaison to the police department.
“The mayor contacted our department because certain members of the community are interested in doing something like this, so if anyone wants to get involved, please contact the Community Affairs Unit at 573-7360 so we can help you get started,” said Galvin.
“The village does have Neighborhood Watch signs which they would put up in these areas, so the signs would be visible for everyone to know that there is a community watch in that area,” she added.
Mayor Cavallaro then opened the meeting to questions.
A community member raised a concern regarding notification of area schools in potentially dangerous situations such as the Post Avenue armed robbery.
The mayor responded that he recently met with local school representatives regarding this issue.
“We discussed setting up a joint communication system for these types of events. Whoever is the first to learn of it, whether it’s the village or one of the schools, will notify the others,” said Cavallaro.
Another person wanted to confirm if 911 was the correct number to call if a person wanted to report something suspicious but wasn’t sure if the situation was an emergency.
“Don’t hesitate to call 911, even if you think it’s a borderline issue,” said Inspector Canavan, reminding the audience that, “When you call 911, the call is going to get prioritized.”
One resident asked if it was safe to answer the door when an unfamiliar person is outside.
The inspector advised that residents should use their best judgment, but should call 911 if they feel uneasy or unsure of the stranger’s motives.
Mayor Cavallaro encouraged residents to inform the village as well when suspicious events occur by phoning the village’s code enforcement hotline number at 333-1869 or by directly contacting village officials.
Since Carle Place is not under the jurisdiction of the Village of Westbury’s code enforcement patrol, Carle Place residents were advised to contact the Town of North Hempstead’s code enforcement hotline.
“You can reach town code enforcement up until 8 p.m. by calling 311,” stated Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell, who was also in attendance at the meeting.
“After 8 p.m., there is an answering machine, so they will still be able to get that message,” she added.
Mayor Cavallaro reminded the audience that both village residents and non-residents can sign up through the village website at www.villageofwestbury.org to receive email updates on suspicious activity in the community.
The mayor closed the meeting by thanking the concerned residents who helped to initiate it.
“We have very diligent residents and civic associations and I think that because of them we are more aware of what’s going on in our surroundings than maybe some other places are,” said Cavallaro.
“The Westbury and Carle Place areas are safe communities. There are certainly some issues that need to be dealt with, but the village is on top of them to the extent that they’re within our jurisdiction, and I can tell you with certainty that the precinct has also been extremely responsive in its efforts,” concluded the mayor.