Huntington, Suffolk To Implement Comprehensive Anti-Gang Strategy

Huntington Town and top Suffolk County officials will implement a comprehensive strategy focused on attacking gangs and reducing violent crime in the Town.

The commitment to devising a multi-pronged, multi-agency approach followed a meeting at Huntington Town Hall called by Councilwoman Tracey A. Edwards that included Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, County Executive Steve Bellone, Police Commissioner Tim Sini, representatives from Council Members Mark Cuthbertson and Eugene Cook, and Councilwoman Susan A. Berland.

“Our approach to these issues up to now has been tactical, responding to specific incidents,” Councilwoman Edwards said at the beginning of the 90-minute meeting. “It is time to take a strategic look at what we can do and how all levels of government can work on these issues together.”

“By pooling resources and working together, I believed we can make a dent in the effects gangs and violent crime have had on the quality of life in some of our neighborhoods,” Supervisor Petrone said. “This effort will encompass and coordinate the work being done by law enforcement and social service and youth programs.”

“Seamless communication between all levels of government is essential to reduce crime and enhance public safety,” County Executive Bellone said. “We continue to make important strides in deterring individuals to a life of crime, and our partnership with the Town at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center is another tool in our arsenal to achieve that goal.  I commend the Town of Huntington for being proactive and facilitating these discussions to expand on the important work that must be done.”

“In September 2016, the Suffolk County Police Department introduced a multi-pronged strategy to eradicate gangs, particularly MS-13, from our communities that includes targeting and arresting gang members, working with our partners in law enforcement to prosecute these individuals, and investing in school- and community-based gang prevention programs,” Commissioner Sini said. “Working with the community to reduce gang recruitment plays a critical role in eliminating gangs from Suffolk County and the police department looks forward to partnering with the Town of Huntington on this issue.”

Among the approaches discussed were ways to engage youth, through the schools or social service programs offered by the county and the Town, to discourage youths from joining gangs. 

Councilwoman Edwards had called for a State, County, and Town leadership meeting in response to Huntington Station and Greenlawn community concerns about additional measures that government could undertake combat gang violence and guns. 

To begin the discussion, Councilwoman Edwards presented a “gang briefing” prepared by a former Suffolk County assistant district attorney who had concentrated on gang prosecutions. The briefing helped identify the gang problem and offered suggestions on how to address gang issues.

The brief served as a launching point for a discussion of the gang problem in Suffolk County, possible causes and solutions that might be applied in Huntington.

Commissioner Sini summarized law enforcement efforts during the past year and highlighted some of the successful efforts of the Long Island Gang Task Force. County Executive Bellone described a program called “Council for Unity,” an alternative culture to gangs that teaches essential interpersonal and life skills. Supervisor Petrone mentioned some of the successful programs run by the Town’s Youth Bureau.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included state and federal grants that might be available and county-town cooperation in applying for those grants.

Details of the effort will be finalized in subsequent meetings.

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