Major crime has spiked this year in two of the three Nassau County police precincts that merged last year under a controversial cost-cutting plan, according to the latest crime reports.
From Jan. 1 to April 1 of this year compared to that period in 2012, major crime went up 18.91 percent at Nassau's northwest precinct, the former Third and Sixth precincts; and 10.93 percent at the southwest precinct, the former Fourth and Fifth. Major crime is down by 14.92 percent at the northeast precinct, the former Second and Eighth. Countywide, major crime is up 1.24 percent.
The southwest precinct merged in September of last year, the northeast in May and the northwest in June. In addition, from the time the northwest was created until March 2013, major crime increased 8.51 percent over the same period in 2011-12.
The plan -- intended to save $20 million for a county whose finances are in state receivership -- was to cut in half the number of precincts and reduce the department's supervisor head count. Earlier this month, the last of the mergers -- to create a southeast precinct by moving the First Precinct into the Seventh -- was postponed indefinitely, and may never happen as planned, officials have said.
Nassau police say the first-quarter spikes are misleading because county crime is at such low levels -- historically and compared to other similarly sized municipalities -- that even just a handful of incidents can drive a percentage increase.
"It doesn't take a lot to spike our numbers," the department's first deputy commissioner, Thomas C. Krumpter, said Friday. "Two guys do 26 robberies and that spikes the robberies."
The countywide 1.24 percent increase, for example, represents just 21 more crime reports -- 1,697 in 2012 versus 1,718 in 2013 -- while the northwest precinct's increase represents 87 more crimes, the southwest precinct 47 more incidents and the northeast precinct's decrease 57 fewer.
He added: "There are ups and downs in crime stats over the course of the year."
But James Carver, president of the rank-and-file officer union, the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said the major crime spikes have "validated" the union's concerns, voiced before the merger was approved, that the plan would increase crime.
"Now what you've done is, you've doubled the workload and you've cut the oversight in half," Carver said Friday. "Something's got to give at some point, and obviously the consolidations -- at least two of these consolidations -- are not working."
Krumpter, citing the county's low crime rate, counters that the number of calls to which officers are dispatched has fallen about 25 percent over the past decade.
Krumpter noted that total countywide crime reports -- which include major crime and minor ones such as criminal mischief -- are down 7.36 percent for the first quarter, or 552 incidents.
Criminologists consider major crime -- a category incorporating offenses such as murder, rape, robbery, burglary, vehicle theft and grand larceny -- to be a barometer of a department's crime-fighting prowess, and the FBI uses a nearly identical metric to track crime rates, said Eugene O'Donnell, a former NYPD cop who's now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
"They're the crimes the FBI collects and publishes and they form the grounds for enforcement and resources and public perception," O'Donnell said.
A sampling of individual crime categories in the now-consolidated precincts shows mixed results over the first quarter. Burglaries are up 46.99 percent, or 39 incidents, but robberies are down 15.56 percent, or 7 incidents, in the northwest precinct. In the southwest precinct, burglaries are up 25 percent, or 27 incidents, and robberies are up 38.64 percent, or 17 incidents. And in the northeast precinct, burglaries are down 28.93 percent, or 35 incidents, while robberies are up 33.33 percent, or 6 incidents.
The three closed precincts -- the Fifth, in Elmont; the Sixth, in Manhasset; and the Eighth, in Levittown -- have been reopened as lesser-staffed police outposts. But each of the sectors into which the county is divided -- about 180 -- retains a dedicated patrol vehicle within it.
The county legislature approved the merger plan, in March 2012, along party lines. During the vote, opponents packed the legislative chamber, in Mineola, arguing that the plan jeopardizes public safety.