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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

After Maggie Rosales killing, Huntington Station and police try for better communications

Alfred O'Donnell, center, of Huntington Station, speaks during

Alfred O'Donnell, center, of Huntington Station, speaks during a meeting with police officials at the South Huntington Library. Credit: Ed Betz

Now we're beginning to get some answers.

Maggie Rosales' killing in Huntington Station was not gang related. And she was not a random murder victim.

Community residents -- that is, those who were able to hear during Tuesday night's raucous town board meeting -- learned much from Suffolk Police Chief of Department James Burke.

Burke also said the slayings of Rosales, 18, and three other Huntington Station residents in a little over a year were unrelated. Luis Ramos-Rodriguez, 38, was stabbed in a bar fight; and at least one of the remaining two killings involved gang members. No arrests have been made.

Burke also offered up a few statistics about an effort Suffolk police launched, without public notification, beginning July 30 after an uptick in some crimes. He said the Huntington Station Violence Initiative resulted in 293 arrests -- 40 of them involving verified gang members; 400 criminal charges; and 1,500 summonses. Burke said there was no public notice because "we didn't want to tip off the bad guys."

He and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who was booed and then applauded after he finished his remarks, also released information about an effort to speak directly to -- and solicit ideas from -- clergy, business and community leaders.

In addition, the police department has assigned brass to the Second Precinct, tasked with sending daily reports on what's happening in Huntington Station up the line, to Police Commissioner Edward Webber and to Bellone.

All of which is a start -- but only a start -- in badly needed fence-mending between Suffolk County and Huntington Station residents.

Wednesday, before a regularly scheduled public safety meeting with Second Precinct officers at the South Huntington Public Library, a monthly gathering that usually draws fewer than eight residents -- more than 200 turned up.

As the meeting made clear, there's a gulf between how police and residents view how precinct officers are doing their jobs. There were complaints about bullying and rudeness, and several residents told Deputy Insp. William Read, the precinct's executive officer, pointedly that they did not trust the police.

"I am embarrassed to hear this," Read said after Meagan O'Donnell, a 10th-grader at Walt Whitman High School, recounted how she and her family, residents of the block where the body of Rosales, a schoolmate, was found, were treated by some officers on the scene. "I want to change your mind, change your perception of police," Read said. Some praised the local officers. "The issue is that there has to be retraining of the bad ones," a woman said.

And so the communication began -- better late than never. But, again, it will be up to the Huntington Station community to stand together to keep it going -- with police, Suffolk and Huntington Town officials. The next monthly public safety meeting is Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. Its location hasn't been set.

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