Southold Town's police chief told residents Thursday night that his department is increasing patrols and organizing community meetings in Greenport in an effort to stem gang-related crime on the North Fork.
Chief Martin Flatley's remarks came during a public forum police organized in response to an Oct. 14 shooting and machete attack that wounded two men on a farm-lined Southold street, shocking residents of the rural community.
"This has really shaken a lot of us up," Dorothy Catapano, whose family owns a dairy farm near the site of the attack, said at the meeting.
Police said the attack was linked to a dispute between MS-13 and 18th Street gang members, and arrested five alleged MS-13 gang members in connection with the case.
Those arrested included a 17-year-old Greenport High School student and a 20-year-old Bay Shore man also suspected in an Oct. 10 shooting in Riverhead.
Flatley said gang activity is a concern across town, but is centered in Greenport. "You are going to see a greater presence of police officers in Greenport Village," he said.
Officials from Southold Town, Greenport Village and North Fork school districts also attended the forum, which drew about 50 people to a town recreation center in Peconic.
The Southold Town Board voted in November to add eight new police officers to the town's 44-member force, and Flatley said there are now three police cars patrolling the village.
Sgt. Steven Lundquist, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Gang Intelligence Unit, said at the forum that MS-13, 18th Street and Latin Kings are the most prominent gangs in Southold.
Suffolk's MS-13 members are based primarily in Brentwood, Central Islip and Huntington Station, but most are transient and may flee to the North Fork to hide from other gang members or police, Lundquist said. He called the group "one of the most organized and violent street gangs in the world."
"We take this very, very seriously," said Greenport Mayor David Nyce. "It's not a new problem. It's also not isolated here. I don't think you'll find a community anywhere on Long Island that doesn't deal with this in some way, shape or form."
Representatives of the Brooklyn-based Guardian Angels group have been visiting Greenport for about a month in response to the shooting, and organized their first safety patrol with local volunteers last week. Four members of the group attended the forum.
Flatley said after the meeting that he had not been in contact with the Guardian Angels. "I don't feel like we need the assistance of any new patrols in Greenport," he said.
Benjamin Garcia, 51, of Manhattan, leader of the Guardian Angels' effort in Greenport, said after the meeting that police "always do a great job," but his group could help. "When you work together as a team, it's a good thing," he said.