Valley Stream and Elmont residents complained Wednesday that there are fewer patrol cars, longer response times and rising neighborhood crime since the Nassau County Fifth Precinct became a community policing center last year, but county officials denied those allegations.
About 60 people, including former law enforcement officers, educators, school district officials, community activists and civic leaders, turned out for the first public safety committee meeting hosted by Nassau County Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont) with the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association at the American Legion-Post 854 in Valley Stream.
"The fact is that there is an issue of public safety in this neighborhood," Solages, who is in the initial stage of forming the committee, told the crowd, adding that precinct mergers have cost the county more in overtime than saving money. "When I hear the helicopters flying overhead I feel powerless. If I feel powerless as a legislator, I can only imagine how you feel."
Many residents at the meeting requested restoring the former Fifth Precinct on Dutch Broadway in Elmont and more police officers patrolling their neighborhoods. The Fourth Precinct on Broadway in Hewlett is the merged former Fourth and Fifth precincts.
"We can't police ourselves," said Pat Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association, adding poor public safety negatively affects economic development. "We need more police officers. . . . I don't see patrols in my neighborhood anymore."
But Nassau Police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack called Solages' statements about crime increases "disingenuous and false." Crime for the last 28 days in the Fourth Precinct is down 10.22 percent compared with the same time period last year, and year-to-date crime is down 2.65 percent, Lack said in an email.
Incoming PBA corresponding secretary Dean Losquadro, an officer for 26 years, said the union "fought hard" against the merger, adding the former Fifth Precinct had a high of about 240 officers, but now has about 140.
"I would like to think that after a year of this nonsense going on that they would realize it was a mistake too," Losquadro said. In response, County Executive Mangano's spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email that desk jobs were reduced. He dismissed allegations that police response times are longer as "completely inaccurate."