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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Focus on rising body count in Nassau, Suffolk

Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran at a

Nassau County executive candidate Laura Curran at a debate hosted by the Long Island Association at Crest Hollow Country Club on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 in Woodbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Laura Curran, a Democrat and candidate for Nassau County executive, dropped a few jaws during a debate at the Crest Hollow Country Club last week when she said she would not be surprised if more bodies began turning up in Nassau.

Curran went on to tell the ballroom breakfast crowd at the Long Island Association-sponsored debate — in response to a question about what candidates intended to do about MS-13 — that she had reason to believe that 10 missing person cases in Nassau “fit the profile” of potentially being linked to gang activity.

That was early last Thursday morning, as police and federal authorities, acting on tips, continued searches of wooded areas in different parts of Nassau.

On Oct. 19, the body of Angel Soler was found in woods on the Roosevelt-Baldwin border.

On Wednesday, authorities unearthed human remains in a Freeport park.

On Saturday, officials announced the discovery of more human remains on the Freeport-Merrick border.

Since 2015, 17 Latinos between the ages of 13 and 23 have been reported missing in Nassau, Det. Maureen Roach, a county police spokeswoman, said Monday. Of those 17, six are believed to have an association or affiliation with gangs, she said.

The numbers put the estimate by Curran — and, later, assertions by her opponent, Republican Jack Martins, that he’s heard about a number of missing persons potentially tied to gangs as well — too close to reality for anyone’s comfort.

Since January 2016, in Nassau and Suffolk, 23 violent deaths have been linked specifically to MS-13, including Soler’s.

“It shows that MS-13 is not a Suffolk, or a Nassau concern, it is all of Long Island’s,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who has been working with both counties and federal authorities to keep attention on the gang.

On Monday, Martins said that if elected, he would designate a police inspector as a “gang czar.” (In Suffolk, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone said he considered the police commissioner to have that responsibility.)

Curran said she wanted to ensure police have the resources they need to keep gangs under control.

Both candidates agreed that resources — financial and otherwise — also need to be provided to schools and communities to keep gangs from recruiting new members.

Since last year, the bulk of MS-13-related slayings have been in Suffolk. Now, bodies — including that of Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, whose remains were found at the Massapequa Preserve in March — are beginning to turn up in Nassau.

Could the concentrated attention by state, federal and local authorities on MS-13 in Suffolk have shifted gang activity over to Nassau? King said that was possible.

Answers also may come when — or if — police provide more information about how long the most recently discovered remains were buried.

Meanwhile, the search for remains in Nassau will go on.

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