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Southampton chief Steven Skrynecki plans to use data to help policing

Incoming Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki has

Incoming Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki has proposed hiring an analyst to mine crime data to help predict where to deploy police. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Incoming Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said Wednesday that he plans to enhance the department by using data-driven policing methods, improving community relations and creating a pathway to treatment for drug users.

Skrynecki, who is scheduled to take the reins of the department next month, told Southampton residents that while there is “fundamentally no need to change anything” in the department, there “is room for improvement.”

The 42-year police veteran proposed hiring an analyst to mine crime data in an effort to predict where to deploy police, because “municipal budgets don’t support” cops patroling every corner.

“About 10 percent of the population is responsible for 90 percent of crimes,” Skrynecki, 64, said at a meeting of the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association. “Identify 10 percent of the people who cause a problem . . . find where they are and send cops there.”

Some residents at the meeting expressed concerns that the 96-member department is too understaffed for predictive policing. Susan Tocci, of Flanders, said she worries officers will be too far away to reply promptly to scenes outside predicted crime spots.

“I’m hoping that once [Skrynecki] gets in, he will see it would benefit us to have another sector car here in this area,” Tocci said, noting that she wants the department to hire more officers.

Skrynecki said he is considering appointing a “community police contact person” from within the department whom residents can reach out to with their concerns.

He touted plans for technological improvements, including equipping patrol cars with GPS to monitor their location and providing lieutenants with smartphones that let them use translation services at any time.

Skrynecki, who is on administrative leave as chief of department in Nassau, also outlined the policies he has implemented since he began working as a consultant for the Southampton department in January.

To combat the rising tide of opioid addiction, Skrynecki said he has started sending detectives to the scene of 911 calls for overdoses because that time is when people are more likely to give police information about drug dealers. He is working to find a way to provide drug users with treatment options, but noted that can be “tricky” because of medical privacy laws.

Ronald Fisher, president of the Flanders-based civic association, said he supports these drug enforcement measures, which he said show Skrynecki “understands addiction is different from the criminal.”

“We have addicts in our family, and unfortunately the legal system has punished them for their behavior but doesn’t really make any offers for treatment,” Fisher said.

Skrynecki has also appointed a coordinator to oversee asset forfeiture — a legal practice in which law enforcement agencies can seize property used in crimes and sell it at auction — to boost police coffers.

Skrynecki, who said he wants to host more community meetings, highlighted Southampton’s low crime rates.

“You guys are living in heaven here,” he said.

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