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Community leaders: Gang arrests a good first step

The arrests Thursday of eight people who officials say are members of the Latin Kings gang was heralded by Huntington Station community leaders and residents as a first step toward reducing episodes of violence in the community.

And they hope it's just the beginning.

"It's a great start," said Dolores Thompson, a longtime community activist and head of the Huntington Enrichment Center in Huntington Station. "But . . . we all know there is more than one group in this community doing violent things. This is a dent."

She expressed gratitude to authorities for the efforts that led to the arrests but said there's a long way to go toward revitalization of the area.

"Are we now comfortable that this has been taken care of in its entirety? Of course not," Thompson said. "It only proves that there is a problem here."

In recent weeks, parents of children at the Jack Abrams Intermediate School have mobilized to demand action from law enforcement, the town and the school district, including relocation of the students to another facility after two shooting episodes in the vicinity.

The school's PTA president, Pam Fallon, said the arrests are encouraging, but, "I don't want people to give up this fight. The arrests send a message, but we still have to stand strong and take back our town."

And another resident, Richard Morris, said he hopes Suffolk County police will maintain their presence in Huntington Station. The arrests are "good but as soon as we take our eye off the ball, the problem will crop up again," Morris said. " . . . You just can't say we locked up a bunch of gang members so everything is fine."

In a statement, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the arrests "demonstrate the powerful effect of cooperation among all levels of government in addressing Huntington Station's gang problem."

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