The Nassau Police Department Tuesday said all crime is down about 10 percent countywide compared to last year, but figures show robberies, burglaries and car thefts spiked recently in some parts of the county.
In a news conference, Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said some of the spikes were reversed by recent arrests and targeted resources. Krumpter spoke at the department's Intelligence Unit in Massapequa Park, saying the department has been able to keep crime at "historic lows" and has used predictive analysis to target bad guys.
The crime spikes came as the department recently transferred 45 plainclothes officers, who had made dozens of drug and gun arrests, back to patrol to save overtime -- prompting some residents to express worry about the impact on crime.
But Krumpter -- who held the news conference after a Newsday inquiry about the crime spikes -- denied any connection between the new patterns and the transfers, saying the spikes emerged before his May order, which included a dozen from the highly decorated Gang Abatement Program.
"At this point, crime is so low, one incident can tip the numbers," said Krumpter. "These spikes are normal." He added that anyone trying to connect the spikes with the transfers is "spreading fear," and said, "it's really inappropriate."
Since the beginning of this year, the department has made 657 arrests -- about 400 of those by Bureau of Special Operations and Criminal Intelligence Rapid Response Team, said Det. Sgt. Patrick Ryder, head of the department's intelligence unit. Even with the plainclothes transfer, the department has about 150 plainclothes officers, including BSO and CIRRT, police said.
But robberies in the First Precinct in Baldwin increased 56.8 percent over last year through May 26. There were 44 robberies there in the first five months of 2013, versus 69 this year.
That increase, police officials said, was in part due to two patterns: one thief targeting taxi drivers and a single suspect accused of committing 14 commercial robberies over several weeks, targeting 7-Eleven and other convenience stores. Police arrested the store robbery suspect and are "building a case," Krumpter said.
James Carver, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the department was downplaying significant spikes in crimes. "They like to tout this drastic drop in crime of 10 percent, but at that same time, you have robberies up in an area, but they call that insignificant. You can't have that both ways," he said.
Carver said the impact of the plainclothes deployment will become clear in summer, when crime typically rises. "I think there is a correlation between the two, especially coming into the summer months. We shall see," he said.
Stolen vehicles in the First Precinct are up 11.1 percent, from 45 to 50 this year. In late May, residential burglaries in the Third Precinct in Williston Park were up 54.5 percent over the same 28-day period last year. But the total number dropped from 101 to 85 this year through June 9 when compared with the same time period last year. In the Fourth Precinct in Hewlett, car thefts are up 38.7 percent -- from 62 to 86.
Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki said just because some plainclothes officers are on patrol, "their talents have not disappeared," and said patrol officers are the "first line of defense."
He pointed to a robbery arrest Tuesday in Uniondale, in which a 52-year-old man was held up and his wallet and cellphone taken. A pair of officers -- Craig Wulff and Nicholas Dattoma -- spotted three men fitting the suspects' descriptions dumping credit cards down a sewer. The officers called for backup and arrested the men, who had the victim's credit cards. "These officers in radio cars closed out a potential pattern before it could be started," Skyrnecki said.