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Nassau Dems: Probe underreporting of crimes

Late Nassau County Legis. and Presiding Officer Peter

Late Nassau County Legis. and Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt. (Oct. 12, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau's Democratic lawmakers called Thursday for an investigation into the underreporting of serious crimes in parts of the county and whether the statistics undermine the administration's precinct consolidation.

The three Democratic members of the county legislature's Public Safety Committee asked Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) in a letter for an "immediate" hearing to determine how crime reports in the Sixth and Fifth precincts were mishandled and whether similar abuses occurred elsewhere.

"The distressing revelations regarding the misclassification of crime statistics are completely unacceptable and cast serious doubt upon the administration's basic factual justification for the precinct closures," wrote Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn), David Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin).

Schmitt said through a spokesman that he would schedule a hearing "if warranted" after all administrative procedures are completed. "Basically, his feeling is this is the job the [police] commissioner was hired to do. He should complete his task," spokesman Ed Ward said.

County Executive Edward Mangano named Thomas Dale as Nassau's police commissioner last December. Mangano and Dale unveiled a consolidation plan in January to reduce Nassau's active precincts from eight to four.

Democrats opposed the plan to turn the Fifth precinct in Elmont, the First in Baldwin, the Sixth in Manhasset and the Eighth in Levittown into "community policing centers." To date, the Sixth, which had the lowest reported crime rate last year, has been merged with the Third in Williston Park, which had the highest reported crime rate; in addition, the Eighth precinct has been consolidated with the Second.

The police department this week acknowledged demoting Insp. Thomas DePaola to captain in the patrol division for mishandling about 170 crime reports between January 2011 and mid-July, mostly at the Sixth but also at the Fifth precinct. Felony grand larcenies were misclassified as misdemeanor petty larcenies, and cases in which crime victims requested no arrests were omitted from crime statistics. Some thefts were wrongly classified as "lost property," the police department said.

Thomas Krumpter, first deputy police commissioner, said in a statement that the number of misclassified cases represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of reported crimes in the period. "To call hearings about this issue or postpone the precinct consolidations after a comprehensive investigation of all precincts has already been completed is redundant and unnecessary," he said Thursday.

Denenberg in a separate letter also called for the consolidation to be stopped until its costs can be detailed. The administration and the legislature's budget review office have said the plan will save about $18.5 million annually because of a reduction in police payroll. But Denenberg said he has received reports about unanticipated expenditures, including the need to rent trailers to house personnel at the consolidated precinct houses.

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