Nassau police officers answered phones, scanned computer monitors and greeted the public Monday at the front desk of the Fifth Precinct -- the kind of robust activity the Elmont station house hadn't seen since it was shuttered more than two years ago.
The Fifth Precinct, which was closed and whose officers merged with the Fourth Precinct in Hewlett under the department's controversial consolidation plan passed by the county legislature in 2012, reopened Monday.
Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), who championed the reopening, saying the closure led to an uptick in crime and longer response times, cut a ceremonial ribbon -- orange and blue, the colors of the Nassau police -- alongside Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki.
"It feels great. It was a victory for the community," said Solages. "I'm glad that there were many community members here to join in the culmination of two years of hard work."
Police officials predicted the consolidation plan to merge its eight precincts into four would save $20 million, but a recent legislative budget analysis said the department's spiraling overtime costs negated any savings. In addition to reversing the merger of the Fifth, the department also said last year it wouldn't go through with plans to merge the First Precinct in Baldwin with the Seventh Precinct in Seaford.
Critics of the merger plan had said crime would increase as a result. But crime in areas of Nassau patrolled by the department -- not including Hempstead and Freeport villages, which have their own departments -- decreased 10 percent last year, according to department statistics.
James Carver, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said Monday the move is "a great thing for morale" and "the right thing to do for the community."
Fifth Precinct officers had told him they felt like a "stepchild" after being removed from their "home" precinct, where some had worked their entire careers.
Deputy Insp. James Bartscherer, who was named the commanding officer of the Fifth, said Monday was a "very exciting day."
"The message we want to send is: we are here to serve the public. We have been doing that over the years. The commissioner has found the resources to make it possible to be a little bit more responsive to the community and we would encourage the community to take advantage of that."
Milagros Vicente, 47, a North Valley Stream resident who led a group that advocated to reopen the precinct, said Monday: "It just shows that community support can make things happen. . . . I'm elated. We need our officers here. It wasn't about just a building. It was about our public safety."