Homicide numbers in Nassau County dipped slightly in 2019 and inched up in Suffolk, according to statistics reported by police.
Sixteen homicides were committed in Nassau, down from 17 in 2018, according to police. Seven of those homicides occurred in communities with their own law enforcement agencies, such as Hempstead.
Twenty-five homicides were committed in Suffolk, up from 21 reported in 2018, but a significant decline from 2016, when 33 homicides were reported. Four of the 2019 homicides occurred in communities outside the jurisdiction of Suffolk police.
“Even one victim is too many,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.
Violent crime continues to remain at or near record lows across Long Island, Hart and Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in recent interviews, thanks to aggressive, intelligence-led policing that analyzes statistics, identifies trends and directs resources to areas where crime is likely to occur.
“We are tackling the problem head-on,” Ryder said. “We have mastered the art of intel.”
Police also collaborate with federal agencies and community members to target gang members to get illegal guns off the streets and intervene before violence takes place, the commissioners said.
“We probably prevent shootings because we intervene quickly,” Ryder said.
Suffolk officials said MS-13, the transnational gang linked to dozens of murders across Long Island a few years ago, was responsible for the 2016 surge. Suffolk police have worked with law enforcement partners, including federal agencies and authorities in El Salvador, to put a dent in the gang’s activities in recent years.
“We look at the intelligence and flood areas where there could be trouble,” Hart said.
The yearslong crackdown on MS-13 on Long Island continued in 2019, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said last month while announcing the arrest of 96 members of the gang on charges that include murder, drug trafficking and weapons possession.
The Suffolk Firearm Suppression Team, created in 2016, has put a significant dent in gang violence by taking illegal weapons off the street, Hart said.
She said Suffolk police executed 270 search warrants in 2019, a 41% increase over 2016, and seized 76 handguns, compared to 59 in 2018. Suffolk police also seized 104 shotguns and rifles in 2019, compared to 51 in 2018.
“Search warrants have been a good asset for us, a good tool,” Hart said.
Ryder said Nassau is creating a four-man gun suppression unit that will gather used shell casings to build a database of weapons used to commit crimes. Every weapon leaves a unique spiral, like a fingerprint, on the casings, and Ryder said police hope the database can be used to help solve old crimes and prevent future assaults.
“You have to stay on top of problems in your communities, and this will help us do that,” Ryder said.
Hart and Ryder said their departments hope homicide rates will drop in 2020 by focusing on domestic violence cases. Advocates have said they are encouraged to see Nassau and Suffolk police work closely with organizations such as Long Island Against Domestic Violence in Central Islip and the Safe Center in Bethpage to help domestic violence victims obtain restraining orders and leave abusive relationships.
Ryder said domestic violence cases remain difficult for police, however, because many victims are reluctant to report assaults to police or risk the emotional, legal and financial problems that often accompany leaving an abusive relationship.
“All we can do is work as a community to communicate to people about the work we do with Long Island Against Domestic Violence and the Safe Center,” Ryder said.
The 24-hour hotline for Long Island Against Domestic Violence is 631-666-8833. The 24-hour hotline for the Safe Center is 516-542-0404.
Here are the numbers for the past four years in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
SOURCE: Nassau, Suffolk police departments