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East Hills seeks to crack down after December crimes

East Hills Village is looking for more security

East Hills Village is looking for more security after a burglary and a mugging in December. Among those involved are, from left, village public safety director Charles Summa, Mayor Michael Koblenz and Deputy Mayor Manny Zuckerman. They were at village hall on Dec. 24, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Two recent crimes have shaken East Hills residents and prompted village officials to look at old methods to secure modern community safety.

More than 100 residents gathered at village hall this month to discuss community safety and potential measures to deter crime; and village officials reconstituted a decades-dormant security committee.

“Security — to protect our families, our guests and children — remains our number one priority,” Mayor Michael Koblenz said at the meeting. “While there is no foolproof means to eliminate crime, we want to adopt every viable means to prevent it.”

The citizen-led security committee, which has about eight resident volunteers, will research methods to make East Hills safer, including installing cameras, adopting minimum lighting standards, and possibly establishing a village police force.

Currently, the village relies on Nassau County Police and maintains its own safety personnel, with about 15 people and an average of three cars out patrolling at any time, village trustee and Deputy Mayor Manny Zuckerman said.

Security committee meets in January

The latest version of the security committee, which plans to hold its first closed-door meeting at village hall on Jan. 11, is a response to two crimes this month. Before December, there had been three burglaries for the year, village officials said.

At the Dec. 19 meeting, Insp. John Berry, commander of Nassau County’s Third Precinct, reviewed the latest incidents, which he said were being investigated by Third Precinct detectives.

On Dec. 5, an unarmed suspect entered a house on Wildwood Lane and set off an alarm. A police search failed to find the suspect, Berry said.

A week later, on Dec. 12, a man followed a resident shopping in Wheatley Plaza to her residence on Peacock Drive, Berry said. When she left her car, he threatened to stab her if she did not hand over her ring, and they struggled. Police were on the scene in minutes, but no suspect was found, according to the woman’s husband, who attended the meeting.

Crimes increase during holidays

Berry said burglaries and other crimes tend to increase during the holidays. The number of burglaries across the Third Precinct — which serves most of North Hempstead and some of Oyster Bay — is up 13 percent through Nov. 30, from 217 in 2014 to 246 this year, according to Nassau County crime statistics.

Officials in the community of about 2,300 homes and 7,200 people last undertook a serious assault on local crime in 1979. The village experienced a “rash of burglaries,” about 43 in a short period, Zuckerman said.

As a result, in the early 1980s, residents in two village areas hired private security companies with no police powers to patrol and serve as a deterrent, Zuckerman said.

Crime dropped over the next few years, and it became more challenging to fund the private companies, Zuckerman said.

Security was always on the agenda

In 1988, a security committee was formed to explore expanding the security program across the village. The committee dealt with the logistics and hiring of staff in-house, instead of contracting with security companies.

But the committee disbanded in the late 1990s after the village hired a security director to oversee the public safety program, Koblenz said.

Koblenz said while the community could be proud of its historically low crime record, any crime was too much.

“Any crime in our community is unacceptable and deplorable,” Koblenz said at the meeting. “While we wish we could eliminate it, realistically, that may not be feasible.”

Village of East Hills safety tips

  • Use solid wood or metal exterior doors.
  • Close all latches on windows and for extra security, use a secondary blocking device like a wooden dowel.
  • Schedule timers for interior and exterior lights.
  • If away on vacation, ask neighbors to gather mail.
  • Don’t leave spare keys under doormats, ledges or flowerpots.
  • Minimize hiding places for burglars by keeping trees and shrubs trimmed.
  • Set alarm system upon exiting the house.
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times.

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