“These special units and this program were working,” Abrahams said. “Homicides were on the decline, and the unit’s important work was having an impact. We want to work with the county executive to expand this program rather than cutting it.”
“It’s about giving dignity to the victims, looking at families affected by gun and gang violence in the eye, and knowing that there is something we can do to prevent others from living with the same anguish,” Solages said.
A former gang member speaks
“Nassau County has to do its part,” Sergio Argueta told the Herald. “No anti-gang task force, no plainclothes police officers is not a good thing for the community.”
Argueta, director of the undergraduate program in Social Work at Adelphi University and founder of the 14-year-old gang-prevention program STRONG, knows firsthand what gangs are all about. He was “gang-involved from ages 13 to 19,” he said, but turned his life around “after seeing what the gangs did to my friends. Two close friends died and one is still in prison. It’s about pain and sadness.”
While Argueta said he believes that one of the most important things to keep kids out of gangs is “to create opportunities, you also have to keep them safe, and that means there must be suppression of gangs.” For example, the FBI created the Long Island Gang Task force to curb gang activity. The federal government prosecutes gang members using racketeering laws, which target the leaders of gangs.
“That has been successful, but that left younger gang members, who tend to be more violent,” Argueta said. “That’s the trend. The younger gang members and victims feel invincible and are emboldened by the violence. You can’t eliminate any piece of the puzzle without it having a ripple effect.
“People think they’re safe from gangs if they live outside the corridor,” Argueta added, referring to the Hempstead-Lakeview and Roosevelt-Uniondale areas. “But violence has a way of spilling over those borders.”