Huntington Town Hall, shown last year.

Huntington Town Hall, shown last year. Credit: Chris Ware

Town of Huntington officials are reassessing how visitors access town hall after a man bypassed the security desk and attacked someone inside the building earlier this month.

Town officials have increased the number of security guards at the building's entrance and visitors are now escorted to their destination, Town Supervisor Ed Smyth told Newsday on Thursday.

The measures come after a visitor, identified by police as Vincent DiBenedetto, 44, of East Meadow, punched a man on March 22. Smyth said DiBenedetto evaded movable barriers at the security desk at the entrance inside the building and ignored a request from a security guard to stop.

Town public safety was called and DiBenedetto ended up punching a man, Smyth said.

“The recent incident demonstrated that it was too easy for individuals to bypass the existing security that we had,” Smyth told Newsday. “It was simply insufficient.”

Police said DiBenedetto was arrested and charged with third-degree assault at approximately 3:10 p.m. on the day of the incident. 

The victim was transported to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, police said. Smyth declined to identify the victim, citing a town investigation.

DiBenedetto could not be reached for comment.

According to an online database, DiBenedetto is being represented by Legal Aid, which did not return calls for comment.

Town policy, before the change, required visitors to show ID to enter town hall and also utilizes hand wands for metal detection, town officials said.  

Town officials said they are working with its security vendor to consider various options for “building access control,” including turnstile barricades.

“It is a delicate balance between providing public access and employee and visitor safety,” Smyth said.

Robert McCrie, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said with an increase in gun violence, officials “have every right” to slow down access to municipal buildings.

“Public facilities must remain open to the public,” McCrie said. “But that does not mean that there cannot be a sense of slowing the process down and making sure the visitor is there for a legitimate reason.”

McCrie also said it’s a matter of general safety to require visitors to show ID to enter a municipal building and offers a measure of reassurance if visitors are screened as they enter a building.

“The American tradition is to have government open to the public,” McCrie said. “Simply slowing the process down to make sure your visitor is not certifiable is a wise public policy.”

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