Police on Tuesday conducted a large-scale search in a vast wooded area in Freeport that investigators believe is a meeting area for gang members, as part of a crackdown after a series of gang-related killings in Brentwood, police said.
“We have had no tips or leads that this is a dumping ground” for bodies, said Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a Nassau police spokesman. “This is a gathering spot where they meet, and possibly recruit, and we want to put a stop to it.”
Nassau police began the search of the five-acre area about 10 a.m. Tuesday with officers armed with machetes to cut through thick vegetation in the woods off Commercial Street and Lakeview Avenue, police said.
The hourslong search that ended in late afternoon later moved to the woods on the shoulder of the southbound Meadowbrook Parkway, causing a traffic backup, as investigators from Nassau and state police were seen in Tyvek suits and holding shovels.
LeBrun said police found gang tags spray-painted on trees in the woods, but would not specify which gangs. He said a police dog, trained to search for everything from bodies to gunshot residue, “got a hit.” But no evidence was found after forensic investigators from the State Police were called in to assist.
LeBrun said homeless people are known to congregate in these areas and the dog could have reacted to someone who was sleeping there the night before.
A Suffolk police spokesman said the department loaned one of its K-9s to assist in the search, but LeBrun said the search site did not appear to have a direct connection to the four open gang-related homicides in Brentwood. No one has been charged with the slayings, police said.
Investigators with Nassau’s Bureau of Special Operations, Emergency Services Unit, Fugitive Squad, Missing Persons Squad and Crime Scene Unit were part of the search.
LeBrun said investigators will continue monitoring the area and others across the county to tamp down on gangs.
“The county executive and commissioner have made it a point, based on the gang atmosphere over the last month, that we are going to aggressively look at all these areas, wooded areas, to make sure there is no recruitment going on and if there is a meeting, we’re going to stop that meeting,” LeBrun said.