Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joined a large group of elected officials and area leaders in Huntington Station Tuesday in a joint news conference to announce a move to increase cops on the street in the fight against gang violence.
"We are taking a big step forward today in the fight against gangs in this county and Huntington Station," said Bellone in the parking lot of , located across the street from the scene of recent .
Created in 2009, the Patrol Special Operations Team responsible for focusing on gang hot spots was ineffectively moved to a centralized location by former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, according to Bellone.
Making good on a campaign promise, Bellone, along with acting Police Commissioner Edward Webber, dispanded the headquarters-based gang unit to give precincts the resources needed to fight gangs more effectively and put more cops in high crime areas, according to Bellone.
Calling plan a 180 degree switch from the policy of his predecessor, Bellone said it's one that "makes sense."
"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," said Bellone in a release.
Bellone said communities can't feel safe, prosper or develop the economy in places where gangs are allowed to operate.
In Huntington Station, the gang unit will consist of four officers and one police sergeant, according to Second Precinct Police Inspector Ed Brady.
Police say the announcement means increased personnel in Huntington Station and officers who are more familiar with the local gangs, police say.
According to Brady, the unit has netted 15 arrests since its inception five days ago — including the arrests of three gang members.
"These officers at one time did work at the Second Precinct but were redeployed to work at headquarters to work in centralized command," said Brady. "They have since been sent back to the precincts from which they came in order to concentrate on area problems."
Huntington Town Supervsor Frank Petone said he applauds the move by Bellone to decentralize forces in the fight against crime.
"The only way to move [gangs] out is to concentrate resources in every community," said Petrone. "As a former supervisor who had a community with issues and problems [Bellone] knows where we can really attack this."
Local leaders hailed the move as a step in the right direction in a community which has seen its share of crime incidents recently.
"It gives me great hope that we're going to turn a new page and start working effectively together to solve the problems of this community," said Huntington School Board Trustee Jen Hebert, on hand with a large contingent of school board members from the two Huntington school districts.
"Putting the task force back into the Second Precinct is something I have repeatedly requested from the commissioner's office," said Suffolk County Legis. Lou D'Amaro in a release.
Newly-elected 18th District Legis. William Spencer said he's excited to work with Bellone's team assembled to find creative solutions to neighborhood crime issues.
"I have always said that working together, we can do anything," said Cooper, in a release.