State Police are trying to quell worries that removing a desk officer from an East End station could hurt policing in Riverside, one of Long Island's poorest communities.
Maj. Joseph Tripodo, who leads state troopers on Long Island, said East End dispatch operations could be moved from the Riverside station to Farmingdale by the end of October, a prospect that has drawn concerns from some PBA members and East End civic leaders.
Tripodo said the consolidation would free more troopers to patrol the East End, where they police Sunrise Highway and the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. He said it's part of a statewide effort to consolidate dispatch operations.
"The impetus really is to get the troopers sitting at the desk out on patrol where they could better serve the public," Tripodo said.
But it would mean that for the first time since 2004, a trooper will no longer be stationed 24/7 at the front desk of the Riverside station. Critics of the change say a round-the-clock presence is an important link between troopers and residents of Riverside, a high-crime area.
"Any time there's a trooper working a desk anywhere in the state, it does add a personal touch to community policing," New York State Troopers PBA president Thomas Mungeer said in an interview.
"True, you're still going to have troopers patrolling the community and interacting," he added. "But if someone has a concern, they can talk to someone face-to-face. I think that's something we're losing a bit with the Internet."
Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association, said drug sales and prostitution occur down the block from the trooper barracks. Having a trooper familiar with the area answering calls in Riverside, he said, benefits the neighborhood.
"Local knowledge can't be beat," Taldone said. "By being in the community, I think you just develop more knowledge about the streets, which streets have trouble."
State Police plan to activate an automated telephone outside the Riverside barracks that will allow residents to reach officers inside the station or, if no one is there, contact dispatchers in Farmingdale, Tripodo said.
Troopers assigned to the East End won't be relocated, Tripodo added, but will be assigned to go out on patrol instead of manning the front desk. Troopers will continue to use the barracks, he said, but won't be stationed at the desk around the clock.
About 150 of the state's 3,800 uniformed troopers work on Long Island, Mungeer said. Of Long Island's six stations, Riverside is the only one outside Farmingdale with dispatch services and a desk officer, Tripodo said.
"Obviously, if we had the resources, it would probably be the nicest police service in the world to have," Tripodo said. "We just don't have that many troopers to have a desk at every station."