Does a string of three as-yet unsolved killings in Hempstead since June 30 have Mayor Wayne Hall considering merging his village police department with Nassau County's?
Hall, in fact, still is steaming over a flawed report -- now the subject of a Nassau district attorney's office investigation into county contracting practices -- that a county contractor wrote about a potential merger.
The report, portions of which may have been plagiarized, according to the district attorney's office, was written by retired NYPD Det. Richard "Bo" Dietl.
He says he was asked to study the feasibility of merging Hempstead's and Freeport's village police departments into Nassau's force.
That, literally, came as news to village officials, including Hall, who would have had to approve any such move.
"I wasn't told anything, I had to find out by reading it in Newsday," Hall said. "I haven't had an apology from the county, I haven't heard anything from them."
Hall said the village itself at one point had discussed the prospect of a merger with Nassau's force, but quickly ruled it out.
"We concluded that our village would end up getting less service, less attention than our force provides our residents now," Hall said.
Besides, Nassau police -- who investigate major crimes, including homicides, for the village -- already work well with village police, Hall said.
Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Long Island Gang Task Force -- made up of federal agents and Hempstead and Nassau police -- arrested 10 gang members that authorities said were involved in violent crime and drug dealing in the village.
Meanwhile, investigations continue into the slayings of: Victor Benitez, 28, who was shot on the sidewalk outside a deli on Clinton Street, near the Hempstead-Garden City border on July 4; Gerraud Hill, 30, who died after being shot on Chase Street on July 3; and Jonathan Wade, 55, who died after being shot as he sat in his car on Albemarle Avenue on June 30.
All three cases remain under investigation, Nassau police said Monday.
Hall is pressing witnesses to report anything they may have seen to police. He said village residents can do so, anonymously, should they choose, to village or county police or on the municipality's telephone app, Village Line.
Hall said he considered the spate of killings a spike, rather than a trend, pointing out that the village had gone some eight months without a killing.
"One of the locations, Albemarle Avenue, already had been identified by our police statistician as a hot spot area," Hall said. "The other two locations don't get a lot of crime activity."
And while village police, with grants from Nassau's district attorney's office, have increased their presence -- one of their cars was visible near Clinton last week -- "residents give us even more eyes," Hall said.
He said surveillance cameras showed potential witnesses at all three crime scenes. "So there are people who've seen something and we need and are asking for their help," he said.
Hall has presided over an era of significant growth and proposed development for a planned renaissance of the village. "We were once Nassau's hub and we will be that again," he said.
Hall said that Hempstead's police department already is aggressively working to keep residents safe. "We're always working, and we will continue to work with other law enforcement to get that job done," Hall said.