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EDITORIAL: It will take more than checkpoints to stop gang violence

The gang problem in certain areas of Suffolk County is real. So is the community's growing sense of frustration over the plague of violence these groups bring. But it's far from certain whether police checkpoints that stop random cars is the best response.

On Monday, hours before protesters were due to gather outside his office in Hauppauge, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy appeared in Central Islip to announce checkpoints there and in Brentwood, Wyandanch and Huntington Station. The police call it omnipresence and say it has worked elsewhere in the country to keep gang members at bay.

But it poses dangers, too. The officers who'll run the checkpoints will have to be careful not to cross the line from random stops into ethnic profiling. In minority neighborhoods, where suspicion of police arises from experience, that's an extraordinarily sensitive issue.

Residents of these communities understandably feel terror about the violence and impatience with the level of protection. And now, they have to deal with the possibility that the checkpoints will be less a deterrent to the gangs than a daily burden to the law-abiding majority.

Gangs are a complex problem requiring a mix of remedies and ongoing coordination between Suffolk cops and the FBI. No single approach will get it done. And no single press conference can substitute for sustained attention by county officials. hN


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