Police patrols in the Village of Muttontown increased on Thursday in an effort to combat a recent increase in burglaries and thefts, a village official said.
"We're taking steps to make sure that our residents are safe," village trustee and Police Commissioner Chris Economou said in an interview Thursday. "We're putting together a program to try to take care of the neighborhood and take care of our residents."
The Muttontown and Upper Brookville Police Department had been patrolling the two villages with three cars in the evenings. Beginning Thursday, two additional patrol cars were added to the evening shifts in Muttontown "to cruise around the neighborhoods that we feel are more targeted than the others," Economou said. The burglaries have generally been in the evenings, he said.
Residents are on edge and taking precautions.
"Everyone's concerned and people are taking their security very seriously," resident Russell McRory, 55, an attorney, said. "We've seen a very good response from the police department, they're much more visible and active."
A growing drumbeat of warnings from police about burglaries and car break-ins and thefts have changed residents' behaviors.
Resident Grace Cantarella, 79, said she now parks her car in her garage rather than on the street and installed a video camera on her front door.
"I always felt very safe here, but I am somewhat nervous," Cantarella said. "I make sure I put the alarm on every night."
A Nassau County police detective told residents at a Sept. 14 Muttontown trustees meeting that they suspected South American gangs were responsible for the burglaries, according to Economou and other residents who were present at the meeting. Nassau County police did not return a request for comment on the burglaries and the alleged gangs.
Economou did not provide statistics showing the increase in burglaries but said, "We've been hit a little bit more than we've been hit last year."
Police chief Eric Irizarry informed residents that two homes in "the village" had been burglarized over the Nov. 20-21 weekend.
“The homes were unoccupied at the time and were not well-lit,” Irizarry said in the email.
Police recommend that residents leave lights on when they are not home and let the police department know when they are away for long periods so that officers can check on their homes.
Nassau County aviation and K-9 units were called in to pursue a suspected burglar on the evening of Nov. 9, as Irizarry warned residents by email to stay in their homes due to an active investigation on Circle Road, a residential street.
Village police got a call about the break-in and "rushed over immediately and a chase ensued through the backyards," Economou said. The suspect fled in a vehicle parked in nearby Syosset, he said. "Unfortunately the perpetrator got away," he said.
A Sept. 1 letter to residents from Irizarry wrote that during two burglaries, “The residents of the homes being burglarized were present inside,” Irizarry wrote. “The concept of someone breaking into your home while you are there is frightening.”
Upper Brookville Mayor Elliot Conway said in an interview last week that the recent uptick in burglaries in Muttontown wasn’t happening in his village.
Muttontown and Upper Brookville have been patrolled by a joint police force since June 1.