The plan to reassign 45 of the county police department’s plainclothes officers — including 12 dedicated to fighting gang violence — to patrol duty until next year drew the ire of Democratic legislators when it was announced late last month. Last week, many Elmont residents expressed their outrage over the plan that is designed to save the taxpayers $4.4 million in overtime costs.
At a community meeting at Elmont Library on June 3 hosted by county Legislator Carrie Solages, an Elmont Democrat, dozens of community members voiced their concerns about the rising instances of crime and gang-related violence in their neighborhoods. Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who also attended the meeting and answered residents’ questions, said that crime is down in Nassau County.
“We have the distinction of being the safest large community in America,” he said. “This time in 2012 versus this time in 2014, crime is down 20 percent. That’s the major index crimes, which are most concerning to people.”
Krumpter also said that the transfer of Problem-Oriented Police officers — ‘POP’ cops — was both temporary and necessary, and that there are officers who will continue to perform plainclothes investigations.
“I’m not going to tell you that the ‘POP cops’ don’t add value,” Krumpter said. “It’s one of the most difficult decisions to make because they do add value, and they have such a great relationship with the community. Cuts are never easy. But what is being ignored is that we have approximately 150-plus plainclothes officers that do that street-type enforcement. This is a temporary order. [It] expires on Dec. 31.”
Solages said that the plan violates a contractual agreement that was made when some of the county’s police precincts were consolidated nearly two years ago.
“Paragraph One, and again, this is on paper and was the plan by which we consolidated our precincts,” Solages said, “states ‘the assignment, number and deployment of cars and police officers, for other than administrative positions, shall continue in the same manner prior to March 5, 2012. All terms shall continue as currently constituted.’ Now, if we were good enough to put these words on paper, we must hold these words to be true. This recent decision violates that obligation.”
Krumpter said that that clause is not applicable to the ‘POP’ plan.
“The section does not refer to any of the special units in any of the precincts,” Krumpter said. “I’m sure that will be the interpretation of the union. If that wasn’t the interpretation of the union, I’m sure I would have already received a grievance that I violated that contract.”
Krumpter also said that Elmont, in addition to Roosevelt and Uniondale, is a major focus of the NCPD. Residents, however, said that extra attention is not enough. Many residents pointed to the merger of the 4th and 5th Precincts as the beginning of a decline in public safety.
“You already closed our precinct,” Milagros Vicente, who is a member of the Civilian Police Academy, said to Krumpter. “Do not eliminate the ‘POP’ officer unit. The fact that you closed our precinct reduced our police officers and eliminated a lot of units. One thing I learned from the academy is how important our officers are. Our ‘POP’ officers are exceptional. Please reconsider because it would be detrimental to our community.”
“The problem is that if people felt they were safe, no one would be here for this meeting,” Jon Johnson Sr. said. “You don’t think about the people. You told us two years ago that the precinct wouldn’t make a difference. Now, you’re taking more from us and telling us again that it’s not going to change anything. You don’t have things in place for public safety and then take them away and say that nothing’s going to change. That’s the most backward thinking you can ever have. We’re all nervous. We’re all scared.”
Some residents said that crime statistics can often be misleading because, in spite of Krumpter’s claim that crime is down, only crimes that are reported are recorded — and many are often not reported. Other residents said that the proximity of Elmont to Queens is a major factor that should be considered before implementing such a plan, because they said many criminals come from neighboring areas. That, they said, is one reason why they feel crime is on the rise.
“I’ve lived in Elmont since the ’60s and I can assure you, crime is not down,” Patrick Nicolosi said. “These crimes [that happen today] did not happen in the past. I don’t want to be a statistic. I’d rather pay more because when it comes to policing, less doesn’t equal more. The public wants and demands more. You closed my 5th Precinct and crime is going up. Why did we close the precincts and increase overtime?”
“There’s nothing that I’m saying that we’re particularly happy about,” Krumpter said. “[We] have to live within a budget. We will hire in July and in September [but] we have to adapt. We have to adapt to the environment.
“This is truly temporary.”