(January 24, 2012-Huntington Station, New York) Today, County Executive Bellone and Acting Police Commissioner Webber were joined by county legislators, Huntington town officials and community leaders to announce the decentralization of the Suffolk County Police Department’s Gang Unit.
The gang unit, formally called the Patrol Special Operations Team (PSOT), was created in 2009 and was responsible for focusing on gang ‘hot spots’ where gang violence was prevalent. However, after further review and analysis, County Executive Bellone and Acting Police Commissioner Webber have decided to redeploy PSOT personnel back to the precincts.
“It has been proven that the most effective gang prevention units have a considerable amount of interaction and familiarity with the communities they serve,” said County Executive Bellone. “By decentralizing this unit, the officers will now bring their intelligence to the precinct level, sharing their knowledge with fellow officers, fostering familiarity with the communities served and adding more flexibility to staffing and resources.”
“To address these problems of Gangs and Drugs, we will institute the concept of Intelligence Led Policing,” said Acting Commissioner Webber. “This includes the real-time accurate reporting of offenses, and getting this information to the Commanding Officers quickly so they can react with effective strategies to address their local crimes and problems. An integral part of this concept will be the relentless follow-up by Police Administrators.”
Decentralizing the gang unit involves the transfer of 32 police officers, 6 sergeants and one lieutenant back to precincts.
To underscore the recent decision made by Bellone and Webber, the U.S Justice Department, in a report issued September 13, 2011, cited the following issues and recommendations regarding Suffolk County’s centralized gang unit:
“Having a centralized gang unit can severely limit SCPD’s ability to develop relationships with the community or to create preventative interventions. The lack of a regular anti-gang presence in the community alienates adults when gang prevention activity is conducted and exposes children, who are the primary targets of gang recruitment efforts, to gang influences. We recommend that SCPD focus its anti-gang activities on the local level, using re-established local precinct anti-gang units and street crime sections. (September 13, 2011)
"Putting our gang units back into the precincts is going to benefit all communities plagued by gang violence," stated Legislator Kate Browning, Chair of the Legislature Public Safety Committee. "Centralizing gang officers was a reactive approach that left communities all across Suffolk County lacking the vital resources they needed. Reversing this policy is the right thing to do and will ensure that every neighborhood has the officers needed to combat gangs at all times."
“Putting the gang task force back into the 2nd precinct is something that I have repeatedly requested from the commissioner’s office. It will help focus undercover, anti-gang police efforts on Huntington Station”, said Legislator Lou D’Amaro. “This redeployment will also help police build a stronger relationship with residents and send a clear message to gangs that the County is very serious when it comes to eliminating them once and for all.”
“I applaud County Executive Bellone’s proactive approach to tackling the problems in Huntington as well as the entire 18th LD,” said County Legislator William Spencer. “I am excited to work with the dynamic team he has assembled to find creative solutions for the crime and gang issues that plague our neighborhoods. His refreshing spirit of cooperation serves our County and communities well. I have always said that working together we can do anything.”
“This action will make it more difficult for gangs to thrive because the anti-gang police presence in a community will be on-going and not subject to shifting geographic priorities. I commend County Executive Bellone and Acting Police Commissioner Webber for implementing this change, which will augment our ongoing initiatives to reduce gang influence in Huntington Station and continue the community’s revitalization,” said Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone.
“Gangs are a problem in our County and I have pledged to set policy that we will aggressively go after these gangs, with real strategy and the resources to implement that strategy.” Today, we have announced a critical initiative to combat gangs and I, along with the Suffolk County Police Department, will continue to engage in Intelligence Led policing which is beneficial to all Suffolk County residents.”