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Rocky Point residents want to form neighborhood watch programs to combat burglaries

Suffolk County Police Officer Bill Cunningham, Suffolk County

Suffolk County Police Officer Bill Cunningham, Suffolk County Legis. Sarah Anker, Roland Jackson, of Rocky Point, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Officer Susan Cataldo pose together at the corner of Hallock Landing Road and Magnolia Drive in Rocky Point, Aug. 21, 2014. Jackson organized fellow Rocky Point residents to form a neighborhood watch Program in reaction to a rash of summer burglaries. Credit: Heather Walsh / Heather Walsh

Concerned Rocky Point residents are organizing neighborhood watch programs in the wake of nearly a dozen burglaries in the past three months.

After the break-ins, residents placed about 75 calls to Suffolk County Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), whose district includes Rocky Point, asking for help setting up a program.

"It created chaos," Anker said of the home burglaries.

The county legislator facilitated a meeting between residents and Seventh Precinct officers to form the watch programs. Exact street addresses for the programs in the hamlet were not available.

"We're opening up the dialogue. I think we're going to see a lot more community [involvement], and neighbors getting to know each other," Anker said, adding that the burglaries resulted in something positive.

Seventh Precinct officers said there are other watch programs up and running in their district, including in Mastic and Shirley. Anker said Mount Sinai created a watch program in 2011.

"This is a positive action," said Insp. William Neubauer, Suffolk police department's Seventh Precinct commanding officer.

Besides Rocky Point, the precinct covers Moriches, Ridge, Middle Island, Sound Beach, Yaphank, Eastport and Wading River.

Helping push Rocky Point residents to form a watch program was the recent arrest of Michael Caruso, 23, of Rocky Point, who was charged in eight burglaries in the hamlet between July 16 and 20, Neubauer said.

Spearheading the program is Rocky Point resident Roland Jackson, 44, a property manager for private sites, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years and has three children. He said he was spurred by drug abuse and housing issues.

"My plate is full, working day and night. I have no time at all, but I felt it was important," he said.

Brookhaven Town council member Jane Bonner, who represents Rocky Point, said a growing drug problem, along with illegal rental homes, are driving crime.

"The heroin problem has created such a problem in our community" Bonner said. "The latest rash of burglaries really hit home. Enough is enough."

About 65 neighbors, many of whom hadn't met before, attended an Aug. 13 meeting at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post with officers. As of now, about 80 people are interested in forming watch programs in different parts of Rocky Point, Jackson said.

Officers say the crime prevention program works best when confined to a maximum of three blocks.

Neighbors won't be armed, make arrests or investigate crimes, but instead observe and collect other beneficial information for authorities such as reporting license plates and suspicious behavior. While there won't be any formal training, officers will give participants tips and suggestions on how to run the watch programs.

Police said participation will assist efforts toward increasing safety and reducing crime in the area.

"People get frustrated when they see crime and they expect public safety to be there, and they are, but they have limited resources," Anker said. "We need the help of the community to help and assist."

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