Funding will implement measures planned at session with Suffolk County and Huntington Town
Part of a $500,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant the Suffolk County Police Department is receiving to combat the influence of street gangs such as MS-13 will be used to implement programs first discussed at a July meeting that included top Suffolk County officials and the Huntington Town Board.
At that meeting, the officials – County Executive Steve Bellone, Police Commissioner Tim Sini, Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone and Town Council Members – agreed to implement a comprehensive strategy focused on attacking gangs and reducing violent crime in the Town. 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 them from joining gangs. Also discussed were state and federal grants that might be available and County-Town cooperation in applying for those grants.
Councilwoman Tracey A. Edwards had called for the meeting in response to Huntington Station and Greenlawn community concerns about additional measures that government could undertake combat gang violence and guns. “We all walked out of that meeting with a unified resolve to act strategically in partnership with all levels of government to protect our communities,” Councilwoman Edwards said. “This funding will help implement some of the ideas that emanated from that meeting.”
“We agreed at that meeting that tackling the problem required working together to coordinate the work being done by law enforcement and social service and youth programs,” Supervisor Petrone said. “This funding will enable us to move ahead at full speed toward making a dent in the effects gangs and violent crime have had on the quality of life in some of our neighborhoods.”
Commissioner Sini said, “A year ago, we launched an aggressive gang eradication strategy. Since then, the Suffolk County Police Department has arrested more than 300 MS-13 gang members and reduced crime to historic levels. More work needs to be done, however. That’s why I asked the United States Attorney General for this grant which will be used to further protect our communities from gangs, including in the Town of Huntington. I want to thank the Huntington Town officials for their vision in how to put these additional resources to work in our community. This is an example of effective collaboration among various levels of government to protect our families."
The grant comes from the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national initiative aimed at stemming gang and gun violence. In announcing the grant, U. S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the project the centerpiece of his department’s crime-reduction strategy.
County officials plan to use the funding in a variety of ways, including establishing targeted police patrols and mentoring and truancy programs to provide an alternative to gangs.