Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 17 February 2012 00:00
“I get the sense that dollars being cut, this savings, is the driving issue behind the police precinct closings,” stated North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman. In an interview with Anton Community Newspapers following a town-hosted meeting last week, where Supervisor Kaiman invited local officials to hear the county present its plan, the supervisor emphasized his concern that “we are sacrificing public safety for the wrong reasons.”
Supervisor Kaiman invited Nassau County officials to North Hempstead Town Hall to present the county plan to close four police precincts. The meeting, held last Wednesday morning, Feb. 8, at North Hempstead Town Hall, was an opportunity for the county to speak to its plan before a group of town and village officials. The supervisor said that local officials “had many questions and concerns about the controversial plan.” Over 20 villages were represented through their mayors and trustees, while state and federal legislators also sent representatives to the meeting.Presenting the plan and speaking for the county were Nassau County Deputy County Executive Rob Walker and Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter. They explained that the plan includes closing four of the county’s eight precincts, with those four closed being converted to community policing centers with minimal staffing 24 hours a day. The two further explained that the remaining four precincts would receive additional police support to carry the additional load. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s plan would result in a reduction of over 150 police officers, although 48 officers would be reassigned back to police duties.
Delving into more detail, the county representatives told the assembled officials that the community policing centers, where the public could conduct business such as getting accident reports, would be manned around the clock by two police officers. However, they would not process arrests or handle administrative matters.
The plan calls for the following four precincts to remain: the Seventh in Massapequa/Massapequa Park, the Second in Woodbury, the Third in Williston Park, and the Fourth in Hewlett. The remaining four locations, the Fourth in Baldwin, the Fifth in Elmont, the Eighth in North Massapequa, and the Sixth Precinct in Great Neck/Manhasset, would operate as community policing centers.
“It’s not about closing precincts,” said Commissioner Kurumpter. “We have 177 cars on the street today and we will have 177 cars on the street tomorrow.”
Commissioner Krumpter also announced at the meeting that Highway Patrol units would operate out of the 6th precinct in the future. He said that the proposal would cut expenses without compromising public safety by using more technology and intelligence-based policing, a direction he said that the department was already heading in.
Commissioner Krumpter said that “The county has invested a lot of resources in intelligence.” And he pointed out a 12-man detective unit. He said many of the duties previously conducted in the precinct house are now processed via computerized patrol cars. He stated that the county plan is expected to save a total of $20 million.
Deputy County Executive Roby Walker and Deputy Police Commissioner Krumpter both highlighted the cost savings that the county would achieve, while insisting that public safety would not be compromised.
On the other hand, not all Nassau County public officials are supportive of this plan. Nassau County legislators Judi Bosworth and Wayne Wink both expressed concerns about the plan, focusing on the limited information they had received and the quick pace in which the plan was being moved to a vote before the county legislature.
Following the meeting, County Legislator Judi Bosworth said that the precinct closures “felt like déjà vu.” She spoke of just 18 months ago the legislators were told of a plan to merge the Sixth and Second Precincts, and then in the fall a budget was passed “by the Republican majority that included closing two precincts and now we are being faced with a plan that will close half the precincts in our county, including our own Sixth Precinct.” Legislator Bosworth went on to say that, “This plan, which could have such a critical effect on our ability to deliver public safety services to our community, deserves more scrutiny and additional opportunity for input from the public … we deserve nothing less.”
Legislator Bosworth then issued the following statement to the Anton Newspapers: “We were notified on Monday, Jan. 30 that some precinct consolidation proposal would be made by the County Executive. The item was clocked in at the clerk’s office on Friday at 4:45 p.m. for a hearing on Monday afternoon. The hearing was recessed because there was insufficient information presented to the legislature about the plan. Now we are having a hearing of the Public Safety Committee next Monday (scheduled for Monday morning, Feb. 13) and I have yet to see any financial analysis that supports the administration’s assertion that this plan will save up to $20 million. There has been a lack of information about the plan and a lack of process and that troubles me deeply.”
Among the mayors present at the meeting were several of Great Neck’s mayors. President of the Nassau County Village Officials Association Ralph Kreitzman, mayor of the Village of Great Neck, issued the following statement: “While they made a very convincing case that we would have more police and better services, they also made it absolutely clear that saving money was the motivating factor. When it comes to public safety, money should not be the motivating factor, so we must be skeptical. We need to know much more and to work on any plan very deliberately. Over the years we have seen continued cuts in police service and have continued to get less for more taxes. We need to be sure that the ‘anticipated’ $20 million savings, which is much less than one percent of the county’s budget, does not result in further cuts to our critical county police and public safety services.”
Village of Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin, president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, stated: “After hearing the presentation on Wednesday morning, I believe the proposed merger/consolidation of precincts is still a work in progress since many details are missing and indeed the projected $20 million in savings may be significantly overstated. I remain deeply concerned about extended travel times from North Great Neck to the Third Precinct in Williston Park. To my knowledge, no traffic studies or review was made regarding extensive delays that occur on East Shore Road (in Great Neck) and Community Drive during peak travel times. Further, the villages that maintain police departments will be severely impacted when having to process an arrest in the Third Precinct instead of the Sixth Precinct due to the extra travel time and time away from their post. In fact, I suggested that a satellite processing center be maintained at the Sixth Precinct to support all the North Shore village police departments, not just those in Great Neck. Lastly, since the Third Precinct is so busy, I find it hard to believe the patrols in the Great Neck peninsula won’t be compromised. This plan needs further review before a vote, and details of the proposed savings need to be outlined specifically.”
When asked about his reasons for the proposed police precinct merger/consolidation, and if he would like to add any supportive comments, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano issued the following statement to Anton Newspapers: “Public safety is our number one priority. This plan keeps all 177 patrol cars in their current neighborhoods, assigns more cops to community policing positions, and opens four new policing centers throughout the county while increasing efficiencies. In addition, this plan saves taxpayers significant dollars while streamlining duplicative work.”
Town Supervisor Kaiman told the Anton Newspapers that he wants more details, more information. Supervisor Kaiman wants to see “the best model for policing.” And, he reiterated, “Public safety should be the driver.”
The supervisor is “concerned that we do not know the impact.” He questioned how, with this proposed consolidation/merger of police precincts, there could be no impact on police presence. “We don’t know the impact,” he said, adding, “If they are wrong the consequences could be dire.”
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman is calling for a “thorough look” at the plan. “They must go over this carefully … I hope they do that,” he said.