Hempstead Village residents raised concerns about speeding cars, drugs and gang activity to the Board of Trustees and police officers during a community meeting on public safety Tuesday night.
About 50 people attended the meeting at the Kennedy Park recreation center. Police Chief Michael McGowan and Sgt. Ivory Dixon, head of the department’s community policing unit, spoke about crime in the village, as well as the force’s new uniformed gang task force, which was announced last month.
“The gang unit is visible,” McGowan said, noting that the task force’s three officers already have been involved in cases.
The task force was formed to combat a new trend in gang activity in the village, police have said previously. There has been a resurgence of of MS-13, the 18th Street gang and a new group, Latin Pride. Violent crime such as assaults, robberies and shootings have increased this year, according to police, and the police chief said there have been six homicides in the village so far this year.
Mayor Wayne Hall Sr. said the village has linked cameras to its ShotSpotter system, which features sensors that can detect where gunshots are fired almost immediately.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to take a picture of the perps or catch a picture of the car,” Hall said. “I think this is going to be a very uncomfortable place” for criminals.
The police department currently has 118 officers and is interviewing candidates in the hopes of increasing staffing to 130, McGowan said.
But residents at the meeting said they’ve been facing the same problems for years with no reprieve.
“When is it going to stop?” said Alec Jones, 39, of Hempstead.
E. Reginald Pope, president of the Nassau County Chapter of the National Action Network, pointed to the recent gang killings of several teenagers in Brentwood, just over 20 miles away.
“This is coming to Hempstead,” he said of the gang problem. “This is Hempstead’s future.”
McGowan and the trustees begged the residents to help the police. Often, the community knows who is behind a crime but are afraid to speak out, the mayor said.
“The problem is, no one comes forth,” Hall said.