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Suffolk police, FBI, ATF partner to target violent gun crimes

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, center, joins

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, center, joins FBI resident in charge, Geraldine Hart, and ATF assistant special agent in charge James Higgins, in front of illegal weapons, during a press conference at the Dennison building in Hauppauge on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

A broad-based effort to curb Suffolk shootings will add a team of officers charged with getting illegal firearms off the street and target those “committing most of the violence,” police officials said Thursday.

The plan also includes strengthening the police department’s relationship with federal law enforcement and bolstering community outreach, Deputy Commissioner Tim Sini said.

It comes as recent Suffolk police statistics showed an uptick in violent crime and a spike in seizures of illegal guns.

“It will not pay to commit acts of violence in Suffolk County,” Sini said Thursday at a news conference in Hauppauge where he outlined the plan.

Sini said police seized 330 illegal guns in 2015 compared with 189 in 2014. Recent figures showed that overall crime in Suffolk was down 7.65 percent in 2015 from 2014. but violent crime was up 4.89 percent. In Nassau, violent crime fell about 6 percent during that time.

By next week, 15 Suffolk police officers, including detectives, will be part of a permanent firearms-suppression team that will patrol communities and investigate firearm-related offenses, Sini said.

Four detectives will be assigned to an FBI gang task force and another unit operated in Suffolk by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he said.

The Suffolk police plan targets communities struggling with crime, including Wyandanch and Central Islip, Sini said.

The effort received praise from at least one community leader. but New York Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about plans to target people through a “hot list.”

Suffolk police said the list will include people involved in firearms violence though it won’t be limited to those with a record.

“We’ll build cases against these individuals,” Sini said. “We will either take them off the streets or we’ll make it very uncomfortable for them to continue their criminal ways.”

Jason Starr, the Long Island director of the NYCLU, said Suffolk police are “trying to expand their scope of authority beyond what the constitution permits by not identifying those who have, or are committing crimes, but rather people who they think might commit a crime in the future.”

Starr added: “These kinds of models can legitimize racial, gender-based and socio-economic-driven profiling.”

Also under the Suffolk plan, CrimeStoppers will offer a $500 reward for tips leading to a firearms arrest. Under the new reward plan, tipsters will get their money within two weeks if it leads to an arrest.

June Margolin, president of Huntington Matters, a community organization, praised the new initiatives.

“If you take a step back and you look at the common thread in all these violent crimes, it always boils down to drugs and guns,” she said.

Police officers, pastors and community leaders will knock on doors of those involved in violence — but not necessarily convicted of a crime — and offer resources to help them avoid breaking the law, said Deputy Police Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis.

She said the intent is to send them a message.

“We need you to shut it down because we are watching you,” she said.

Kevin Spann, a Wyandanch native who owns an insurance agency said more needs to be done to reduce violent crimes committed by just a handful of residents.

“Wyandanch is no different than any other community,” he said. “Ninety five percent of the people go to work, they go to church and they go home.”

Illegal guns seized off Long Island’s streets:


-2014: 189 guns

-2015: 330 guns


-2014: 913 guns

-2015: 562 guns

Overall crime was down 7.65 percent in Suffolk County from 2014 compared to 2015 but violent crime was up 4.89 percent in Suffolk. In Nassau, violent crime fell about 6 percent during that time, according to recent figures.

Source: Suffolk County and Nassau County police statistics

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