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After Maggie Rosales' stabbing, Huntington Station residents unite to battle violent crime

Residents at a Huntington Town Board meeting on

Residents at a Huntington Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, express frustration with officials' response in the four unsolved Huntington Station slayings. The clash followed a march in honor of the most recent victim, Maggie Rosales, 18, a Walt Whitman High School senior. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The number of murders in Huntington Station since May 2007 -- which has become a hot topic of discussion since a local website published a list of violent crimes -- does not a pretty picture make.

During that time, 11 people were killed in Huntington Station. According to information released by Suffolk County police last week, one case ended with the arrest of a spouse; three others resulted in the arrest of a total of five suspects.

Which leaves the hamlet with what police last week confirmed were seven open, active homicide investigations, including one into the latest, the stabbing death of high school student Maggie Rosales -- even as county officials point out that overall community crime rates are down.

"People are going to be afraid no matter what the statistics say when violent crime is occurring and when it involves the deaths of two young people," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, referring to Rosales, 18, and Daniel Carbajal, 25, who was shot to death in July. "That's why the solving of these cases is important, for the family and for the community as a whole," he said in an interview.

On Tuesday, before the Huntington Town Board meeting began, James Burke, Suffolk's chief of department, acknowledged several homicides were under investigation, saying the department could not publicly release information that could jeopardize future prosecutions.

Before he left the meeting, Burke was asked one question -- about the list that was published on The Huntingtonian. He said 80 percent of the cases -- which includes shootings and deaths outside Huntington Station -- had been solved.

After a Huntingtonian staffer spoke up to say that their list had been vetted with the department's Public Information Office, the two seemed to agree that perhaps there'd been some confusion in communications.

The contents of the list came up again Wednesday morning, however, when Huntington Station residents met with officers from the Second Precinct at the South Huntington Public Library. "I've got answers for you," Deputy Insp. William Read told the crowd, as another officer handed him a sheet of paper.

As questions and comments from the crowd continued, however, discussion moved off in other directions. At Newsday's request, the department did release the information later in the day. It shows that five of the homicides included in the website's initial list remained under investigation.

The police release did not address two other homicides, in 2010, that the website also later added to its list. But the information did show that the department had arrested or identified suspects in six of eight shootings that occurred in the hamlet since May 2007.

Still, as Bellone pointed out, statistics will not be enough for residents until more Huntington Station slayings are solved.

And Rosales' death has re-energized the hamlet -- and seems to be beginning to bridge the yearslong divide among some of the community's black, Latino and white residents.

Rosales died on a street closer to Route 25 than to New York Avenue, where residents long complained of crime. And the Walt Whitman High community -- which turned its homecoming schedule around to respect their classmate's memory and to use an annual fundraiser to help her family -- was represented at Rosales' funeral, at town hall and at the public safety meeting.

There were a couple of times during Wednesday's library session when residents talked across the aisle to each other. A few wanted to start, or learn more, about neighborhood watch programs. Others stayed behind, long after police left, to talk and exchange contact information.

"I've become close to Maggie's father," said James McGoldrick, whose wife brought flowers into the street outside their home as a memorial to comfort Rosales' family.

"I don't know some of these people," he said Wednesday. "But we're really going to get to know each other now."

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