Differing views of recent crime data

Police Dept., union disagree on impact of precinct mergers on public safety


The Nassau County Police Department’s September 2012 decision to merge the 4th and 5th Precincts as a way to help save an estimated $20 million is facing renewed criticism from the police officers’ union, with reports indicating an increase in some major crimes this year compared with the same period in 2012, before the merger.

Total crime so far in 2013 is down 1.84 percent from the same period last year.

The merged 4th and 5th precincts, headquartered in the 4th, in Hewlett, are now known as the Southwest precinct, and include Elmont and Franklin Square. This was one of three mergers that took place last year, and one of two that have seen increases in most major crime categories over the past three months, even as total crime has decreased. The other two mergers were the Northeast, which combined the 2nd and 8th precincts, and the Northwest merger, which combined the 3rd and 6th — the other area that saw an increase in major crimes.

The Police Benevolent Association claims that the increases are directly attributable to the mergers. But the Police Department says that drawing any conclusions from three months of data is misleading.

The latest crime statistics show upticks in robbery, burglary and grand larceny in the Southwest area from Jan. 1 to April 1, compared with the same period in 2012. The data also reveal lower numbers of sex crimes, felony assaults and stolen vehicles. A combined count of all major crimes during the period shows an increase of 10.9

percent. In the first-quarter-to-first-quarter comparison, there have been one more murder, two fewer rapes, 23 more robberies, 28 more burglaries, 20 fewer cars stolen and 19 more grand larcenies in the Southwest Precinct.

James Carver, president of the PBA, said at a press conference on April 17 that the decision to go ahead with the Southwest merger, and the mergers in general, was not well thought out, because it combined the busiest precinct in the county — the 5th — with a moderately busy precinct — the 4th. Carver added that combining the work of two precincts into one, with no additional staff, could not possibly be effective.

“Prior to the merge, the 5th Precinct, the station house itself, was not big enough to process the amount of arrests that they had there on any given day,” Carver said. “You’ve now taken that workload … you’ve now transferred it down to the 4th Precinct. You have two computers to process arrests [since the merger]; at the 5th, I think you had four computers. Now what you’ve done is you’ve taken half the amount of work stations that you have to process an arrest. It can’t work, and the numbers show it can’t work.”

Carver also said that because the “violent crimes — the crimes that matter most” had increased, there was a need to re-evaluate the decision to merge, and that any NCPD staff members that saw the moves as a success should be replaced. “There’s nothing wrong with going back to the drawing board and saying, ‘Maybe we didn’t do this the right way,’” he said.

Police Commissioner Thomas Dale said in a statement that major crimes are down .29 percent countywide since last year, and that the number of police cars that patrolled the county before the mergers was the same as the number that are patrolling now. Dale also reported that total crime in the county is down 8 percent since last year.

While saying that the mergers were to blame for an increase in some crime categories, Carver did not offer an explanation for why there was not an increase in all major crimes or in total crime.

The dissolution of the 5th Precinct was opposed by many of the communities it included. A Facebook group named “Save the 5th Precinct” was started in January 2012 in an attempt to petition against the merger.