To loud applause, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini promised to “decimate gangs” tormenting Brentwood — a week after the community was rocked by the slayings of two teenage girls.
At a community forum Tuesday night, County Executive Steve Bellone also announced that $500,000 will be earmarked for additional gang-prevention programs in the hamlet’s elementary schools.
“No community should be afraid. No child should fear going to school,” Bellone told more than 200 residents gathered at South Middle School.
Later at the forum, Evelyn Rodriguez, mother of slain teen Kayla Cuevas, asked why the schools weren’t proactive in helping to protect her daughter.
“When we’re working hard for our kids, they’re supposed to be safe in school,” Rodriguez said. “They’re not safe in school at all. They’re being bullied. They’re being terrorized.”
Rodriguez said residents needed more help from the outside. “People are actually scared to say anything because somebody might be watching them.”
Rodriguez questioned why students with known gang affiliations and criminal records were allowed in Brentwood schools.
When another parent asked whether her assertions were true, whether there are students with criminal records in the classrooms, district Superintendent Levi McIntyre replied: “That’s a possibility.”
“Two girls were murdered, brutally murdered,” Rodriguez said through tears. “All they wanted to do was go to a friend’s house and have fun and they can’t even do that. Now I have to go and see my daughter tomorrow,” she said, referring to Cuevas’ viewing and visitation on Wednesday.
Tomika Oliver, 40, told the crowd that her two children are devastated by the killings.
In the days after the slayings, Oliver said her 12-year-old daughter has slept in her bed — something she hadn’t done since she was 2.
“My kids cry for two girls that they’ve never met,” Oliver said through tears. “We should not be afraid. Our children should not be afraid.”
Earlier, Bellone pledged to implement long-term solutions and said, “We are here for the long haul. Not for just now.”
Sini said his top objectives are arresting those responsible for the double-slaying, rooting out gangs and making investments in the community aimed at keeping people safe. “We’ll destroy all gangs . . . It will take a lot of collaboration, but it’s going to happen,” he said.
Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, high school juniors described by family members as best friends, were beaten to death last week in what Sini has described as a “brutal attack.”
Mickens’ body was found on Stahley Street in Brentwood on Sept. 13 by a passing motorist, police have said. Cuevas’ body was found less than 24 hours later at the rear of a nearby home on Ray Court in a wooded area.
A law enforcement source has said a fight between Cuevas and a member of the violent street gang MS-13 may have led to the killings. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon.
The community has been battling gang violence for years. The latest killings have renewed and reinforced calls for an end to the violence.
McIntyre has ordered increased school security measures, including mandates that students and staff wear photo identification inside school buildings at all times and the use of metal detectors and wands to randomly search students.
Sini said police already have increased uniformed patrols in Brentwood and Central Islip, especially around public schools.
Parents attended the meeting hosted by the school district in search of answers and solutions. They said the killings and other violent crime in Brentwood have them fearing for their kids’ safety.
Sandra Campbell, 45, said she’s so worried about crime in the hamlet that she doesn’t let her 9-year-old son Elijah walk three blocks to his elementary school.
“He wants to walk, but seeing so much going on in the world, I won’t let him,” Campbell said. “He just thinks I’m being overprotective, but I have to be.”