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Nassau DA using new bureau, electronic surveillance to fight drugs

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas hosts the

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas hosts the first-ever county criminal justice conference on Thursday, April 21, 2016, at Hofstra University. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau’s top prosecutor says she has restructured part of her office in a strategy to target major heroin suppliers that authorities also said would include a more aggressive use of electronic surveillance techniques.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas on Thursday told law enforcement officials and legislators that her creation of a Special Operations, Narcotics and Gangs Bureau was aimed at disrupting the area’s heroin flow and dismantling gangs “that are bringing this poison into our community.”

Singas’ remarks were part of a criminal justice conference her office hosted at Hofstra University to brief criminal justice stakeholders on the work of local prosecutors on topics that included dogfighting, drugged driving, human trafficking and white collar crime.

“We are always on the cutting edge of pushing forward legislation to make it easier for us to prosecute crimes, to make it easier for us to hold offenders accountable and to make laws that reflect what’s really going on in our communities,” Singas told attendees, encouraging them to rely on her employees’ expertise.

Singas, who in January began her job as the county’s newly elected district attorney, said prosecutors in the Special Operations bureau would be “pinpointing where our most volatile situations are” and breaking down criminal enterprises “piece by piece.”

The unit’s new chief, Edward Friedenthal, had been a Bronx narcotics and gangs prosecutor for nearly four decades before his recent hire. He said the bureau’s 11 prosecutors would handle bigger-picture cases and other drug prosecutions would be spread among a wider group of assistant district attorneys.

“We are taking cases that we can develop. We are using all different resources not to merely arrest people who are on the street level, but to try and get up to, and investigate and get evidence against major narcotics traffickers,” he said.

Friedenthal said prosecutors already expanded the use of wiretaps and also planned to use GPS devices to help track suspects.

The bureau chief also said investigators would try to use confidential informants not just for street buys, but to attempt to get access to drug networks. Part of the aim also will be to work with police officials to implement more use of undercover officers in drug cases, including by having informants work with the undercover officers so informants aren’t needed as trial witnesses.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), who was one of the conference attendees, said he was pleased Singas was “reaching out to all areas of the community” to “help her out in prosecuting” various types of crimes.

State Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) said at the Hofstra conference that residents in his district had been outspoken with him about a heroin problem.

“We’re taking input today from law enforcement so that we can then in turn, legislatively, make things happen by passing good laws that will keep our residents safe,” he said.

“As a new state senator, and I think more importantly, as a new dad in the area, I want to be up-to-date as to what law enforcement is doing to take precaution against some of the epidemics that are really ravaging the Island.”

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