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Huntington to install metal detectors at Town Hall

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone sits during a town

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone sits during a town board meeting on Feb. 18, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Town of Huntington officials plan to install metal detectors at the entrance to Town Hall by September.

Supervisor Frank Petrone said it's part of an effort to keep staff and visitors safe.

"Whenever we pick up the paper or turn on the TV, there's always something reported that reminds us we all need to be more conscious," Petrone said.

In the past 18 months, town officials have increased security measures at the building on Main Street, placing security guards at the entrance desk; requiring visitors to sign in; searching bags upon entry to town board meetings; and bolstering security at the meetings.

More recently, visitors to the supervisor's office must be checked in by security with a phone call to the supervisor's office and then must pass through a second security checkpoint in the second floor office.

The town this week unveiled its "Rules of Decorum During Public Proceedings." The rules, displayed on a poster board, outline the use of recording devices; mandate courteous behavior; set limits on speaking time, and other dictates.

Petrone said officials are also considering installing a security camera at the Town Hall entrance.

In recent years, crowds exhibited some aggressive and belligerent behavior at meetings about such projects as AvalonBay Huntington Station and The Seasons at Elwood senior housing development, and the discussion of the killing of Maggie Rosales.

At one hearing for the Seasons last year, Daniel Karpen, a Lloyd Harbor resident and regular attendee of town board meetings, bit a Suffolk County Police officer after a scrape with public safety officers over a bag search.

Karpen was initially charged with disorderly conduct, third-degree criminal trespass, resisting arrest and second-degree assault in the June 17, 2014, incident. He was issued a protection order banning him from Town Hall, but a judge threw it out and he agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor resisting arrest. Karpen was sentenced to a conditional discharge with a permanent order of protection to not harass the officer.

Petrone said before the metal detectors are installed, protocols will have to be developed and employees trained. He said he will work with police for guidance.

The measures are intended to curb rude or violent outbursts, he said. "Remember when you see a cop on the beat, or a security car go by, you're deterring," Petrone said. "So some of this is to deter."

Town board member Mark Cuthbertson disputed whether metal detectors are needed. "Town Hall should be a welcoming place; it's a quintessential public forum and being there I don't sense a huge security threat," he said.

Town Board member Susan Berland said she "absolutely" favors the metal detectors. "I think anybody attending anything in the building needs to be assured that no illegal firearms or weapons will be allowed in the building," she said.


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