Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy held a media conference today to congratulate the county police department as well as FBI agents following the arrest of ten Latin Kings members.
"We promised the community we were going to do a full-court press and that's exactly what we've done," Levy said.
Angel Cordero, aka King Epic, and seven of his underlings were taken in to custody Thursday, March 25. Two other members of the gang were already in custody. Charges include drug and gun trafficking.
"This is a major, major blow to the Latin Kings and other gangs in Huntington Station," Levy said. A turning point in the investigation was following a shooting at Lowndes and Tower streets near the Jack Abrams Intermediate School in September 2009.
"At that time our special operations gun and gang teams consolidated into one unit rather than being spread out over several precincts," he said. They and second squad detectives in turn teamed up with FBI and the investigation flourished, Levy said, "as resources and intelligence were shared."
But noone is "resting on their laurels" Levy said. "This is not considered a closed case." More arrests are likely, he said.
Following the press conference, Town of Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland said she is happy to hear that crime-prevention efforts will continue. "The people of Huntington Station need to know they and their safety are a top priority right now and will continue to be," she said. "They should recognize that no one has turned a blind eye to what is going on in their community."
Levy said that several years back, members of the MS-13 gang dominated in Huntington Station. Following the arrest of many high-ranking members of that gang, the Latin Kings saw a void and moved in to take over the territory. Members of the Crips and Bloods gangs are also vying for control over the area, dictating who can operate drug and weapons distribution in the area.
Often times those battles for dominance are the cause of violent street crimes such as the shooting that occurred in the middle of the day March 11 while Abrams students were in school.
Police warned that parents and schools should look out for gang proliferation, especially in grades six through 10, when junior members begin to be recruited.
County Legislator Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) said that these recent arrests do not change his opinion about the county needing more cops, period.
The county legislature aproved a police district tax last year in order to hire 200 more officers but Cooper said that Levy has only allowed 80 to be hired.
"The eight individuals that were indicted—well, they're just charged at this point, innocent until proven guilty—but I consider them to be communiaty terrorists and they have terrorized the good, hard-working people of Huntington Station for too long," he said. "But we have to be relentless and keep the pressure up. These arrests prove that when the appropriate law-enforcement resources are allocated, we can absolutely have a positive impact on decreasing crime. The crime and gang problem is epidemic. We do need more cops on the street. If we hired the additional 120 police officers that we already have the money for, we could double the size of our gang-suppression unit."
County Executive Levy noted that murder rates are up nationwide 22 percent. "This isn't just here. And it does raise some interesting sociological questions," he said.
Legis. Cooper couldn't agree more saying that police told him that, of the five shootings and two stabbings that took place in the Huntington Station area in the past several months, only about half are gang-related.
"Police intervention and arrests of the bad guys is only one leg of the table," he said, adding that preventing kids from starting a life of crime or joining gangs is just as important, perhaps more, of making arrests later. "I know it's not as sexy to talk about the need for an educational component, and jobs and programs to try and divert at-risk youths but in the long run it could end up using less resources."
To illustrate this, he said that a friend had told him today that she went to elementary school with Angel "King Epic" Cordero.
"It was a wild coincidence," he said. "She said she just remembered what a nice kid he was with a great sense of humor. But she said he had family problems with a single mother and an absent father. To me, he's the perfect indication of the idea that maybe if Angel had proper intervention as a kid, maybe he would never have risen to be the leader of the Latin Kings."
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