Elmont residents and Nassau County officials alike have said that one bullet fired in the community is one too many. A program recently introduced to deter gun violence, however, has a number of Elmont residents upset about its introduction to their community.
ShotSpotter is a gunshot locator that helps Nassau County police find the source of gunfire by instantly triangulating its origin with microphone detectors, allowing for a faster response time by police, and ultimately, fewer gun incidents, according to the police and the county leaders who lobbied for the program. They said that in the Nassau County communities where ShotSpotter was installed, shootings dropped from a total of 759 to 37 per year between 2010 and 2017.
But community leaders like Claudine Hall, president of the Jamaica Square Civic Association and Improvement League, say they do not believe the program is needed in Elmont, especially in her neighborhood. Last month, when the program was introduced to the community, she said, that she and other members of her civic group were angry.
"When we found out it was already in use, and nobody told us, my residents had a natural fit," Hall said. "We want to bring economic development to our community. If I were a newcomer to Elmont and I saw ShotSpotter, I wouldn't want to buy a home here or start a new business if there's violence. As the leader of my civic organization, it's my responsibility and goal to address quality-of-life issues, which this is."
Jamaica Square resident Bill Garnett, another member of the organization, said he didn't like the way the program was introduced to the community. "I just think it was handled wrong, disrespectful," he said. "I know we should follow an order, a chain of command, where our president at least should have been asked if this was necessary, or if we wanted it. She wasn't approached about it or asked at any time. We were just told that this was what we were getting, and I don't think we need it here."
In the Argo section of Elmont, Barbara Reynolds is also opposed to ShotSpotter. While attending her community's civic meetings and listening to Sgt. Edward Grim, of the Elmont/Nassau County Police Department, give the monthly crime totals in her neighborhood, she said she never heard much about gun violence.
"I just don't see a reason as to why we need it," Reynolds said. "People aren't going to want to visit or move here if they know we've got this program. Not only that, but what's the point of having ShotSpotter? It works after the fact. That's when the police come, after the gunshots. If we needed such a program, we would want something proactive."
Another Argo neighborhood resident, Sandra Smith, recalled that she first heard about ShotSpotter at the State of Elmont public meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall on April 6. After learning that it was being used, she said she wished that other issues, such as code enforcement of illegal renters, were addressed instead.
"People need to be more mindful of taking care of their storefronts, their businesses and the streets," Smith said. "A program such as ShotSpotter is for a gunshot problem, and we don't have one here. I'm concerned about property values and taxes increasing as a result of the negative connotation ShotSpotter has, as well as the illegal renters who come here and drive up our tax rates. This doesn't benefit us for these reasons."
Elmont's location in Nassau County is the reason why ShotSpotter is needed there, said County Legislator Carrie Solages, a Democrat who represents Valley Stream and sections of Elmont, including where Hall lives.
"Since taking office, I have spoken with many residents who have asked for this program, or one similar," Solages said. "While I do not believe gun violence is prevalent in Elmont, I know of at least four incidents in the past year that have occurred, which I think everyone can agree is four incidents too many. I have heard concerns from residents with regards to Shotspotter negatively affecting home values in the area. I've spoken with numerous law enforcement officials and been told there is no evidence to show that the system lowers property values. In fact, the officials I spoke to stated that, if anything, ShotSpotter helps to raise them.
"Also, with regard to the ShotSpotter program, I believe it is a valuable tool to assist our police in fighting gun violence," he continued. "Data I've seen shows that, over time, the system works to lower incidents of gun fire, leading to lower crime rates and safer communities."
Hall would like county leaders to focus on other areas of need, such as cleaning and repairing the side streets off Hempstead Turnpike.
"The Town of Hempstead does a great job maintaining Hempstead Turnpike," she said. "But Plainfield Avenue has a lot of debris. They replaced a phone pole on Plainfield, but never removed the old and damaged one, so it sits as a stump next to the new one. Elmont Road has garbage clogging up the sewer grates. We need all of this cleaned up.
"It will start to affect not just our ability to drive down these streets," she continued. "If there is garbage falling through the sewer grates, that could affect our water quality as well. Plus, all the garbage just looks awful. We take pride in our community."
Reynolds said she would also like the funding for ShotSpotter to be used elsewhere. "We could use that money on other more worthwhile programs," she said. "We need to clean up these streets and focus on the opioid epidemic affecting our youth."
Plainfield Avenue and Elmont Road are county roads, and therefore is the responsibility of the Nassau County Department of Public Works (DPW), Solages said. His office has called in the complaint to DPW regarding the storm grates on Plainfield Avenue, and they should be cleaned soon. If there are any other issues with Plainfield Avenue or Elmont Road, residents should feel free to reach out to his office at (516) 571-6203.
Many of the side streets are under control of the Town of Hempstead, Solages added, so they are responsible for the maintenance.
For any problems on these roads, residents can contact the Supervisor's hotline at (516)489-6000 or submit a request online at https://toh.li/helpline.