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Long IslandSuffolk

Huntington to add armed rangers to patrol parks, town sites

A baseball field at Depot Park in Huntington

A baseball field at Depot Park in Huntington Station is pictured Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Huntington officials will assign armed rangers to Huntington Station parks. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Armed rangers are to begin patrolling areas of Huntington Town.

The patrols, in vehicles, will cover many areas of the town but focus on Huntington Station, especially the parks, officials said.

“When people see these patrols and see we’re saturating the area, there’s deterrence and that’s a big piece of the whole program,” Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said. “This will deter crime.”

Starting in the next couple of weeks the six rangers — five men and one woman — will work rotating shifts on weekends. Each is to be paid $23.53 per hour. All are certified as peace officers by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service, which allows them to carry guns.

The primary duties will be patrolling town facilities, buildings and parks to enforce state and local laws, Petrone said, adding that he plans to eventually hire more rangers to patrol during the week.

Town officials in May announced plans for the rangers as one of several safety measures they and Suffolk County police were undertaking for the summer.

Code enforcement officers, who are not peace officers and not armed, have been out on foot patrols along New York Avenue and Depot Road since May. Town officials said as of July 31 those patrols have resulted in opening more than 110 cases involving property maintenance issues for litter and debris violations, unregistered vehicles, graffiti, and other problems. More than 185 notices of violation have been issued and 11 property owners have been issued summonses for not complying with town codes noncompliance.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said a second Firearm Suppression Team has been created and is devoted indefinitely to Huntington Station. The first Firearm Suppression Team is a mobile unit for use across the county.

Three additional officers have also been added recently to the county’s gang support unit in the Second Precinct in Huntington, Sini said. Several shootings and at least one stabbing occurred in Huntington Station in June and July.

Sini, citing county crime statistics, said that between 2011 and 2015 there has been a 21.7 percent reduction in crime in Huntington Station. And so far this year, crime is down in the hamlet by 12.6 percent, he said.

“We’re committed to Huntington Station,” Sini said. “It’s a major priority of the police department.”

Huntington Station resident Robert Rockelein supported the ranger plan and is confident in the police response to crime in the community.

“I think Sini has been very responsive and quite often proactive, and of course reactive to spikes that you did not anticipate or didn’t plan on, so I think their act is together and the community feels very confident their needs are being addressed,” Rockelein said.

The town board is to vote Tuesday to set public hearings to add a Division of Park Rangers, define the duties of a park ranger and require them to be fingerprinted as a condition of employment.

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