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O'Connor attacks Bellone on crime and management of police

James O'Connor, Republican candidate for Suffolk County executive,

James O'Connor, Republican candidate for Suffolk County executive, is seen at the party's countywide convention on June 1, 2015. Credit: James Escher

Republican Suffolk County executive candidate James O'Connor Wednesday lashed out at Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone's management of the police department, blaming him for a rise in gun violence as well as in gang and drug crime.

O'Connor made the attack standing next to several oversized crime headlines at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station, which he dubbed the "epicenter of spiraling crime rates" throughout Suffolk.

"These headlines are incredibly disturbing," said O'Connor, citing recent reports of a 30 percent increase in gun violence and a heroin trade that makes home deliveries. "And it is an abject failure at the highest levels of county government."

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider responded that O'Connor's claims are the "ranting of a desperate candidate." Schneider noted violent crime in the Second Precinct, which includes Huntington Station, is down 29.5 percent since the beginning of the year, compared with 2014 and overall crime is down 13.3 percent.

"We believe in intelligence-led policing," said Schneider, citing the system in which police use data to detect crime patterns. "It sounds like he believes in unintelligent political nonsense."

Bellone, questioned beforehand about O'Connor's impending criticism, also discounted O'Connor's claims, maintaining the countywide crime rate is down 20 percent from last year and expressing support for the police performance. "I'm very confident in their approach," he said.

However, O'Connor said "the public is scared," particularly in high-crime areas. "He may say overall crime is lower, but that's little comfort, if you're behind the counter in a 7-Eleven and looking down the barrel of a gun."

O'Connor was especially critical of Bellone's move to decentralize the police anti-gang efforts by putting smaller teams into each precinct.

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