Local, state and federal representatives held a press conference in front of the Riverside State Trooper barracks on Monday morning. demonstrating their support of keeping the headquarters fully staffed at a time when crime levels are increasing.
The main concern addressed by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin was the timing of the planned reduction in staff at the barracks, which comes just after a string of nearly 70 car break-ins in the nearby hamlet of Flanders over the past few months.
The cut in staffing will result in the locking of the Riverleigh Avenue facility at times, and the forwarding of emergency calls to a dispatcher based in Farmingdale, the next-closest barracks.
Mr. LaValle also pointed to heroin use in the hamlets of Riverside and Flanders as a major cause for an increase in crime.
“Certainly, we care about the people who have become addicted,” Mr. LaValle said, explaining that those individuals also need to be educated and offered treatment. “There is something called enforcement. This is the worst time that we could be moving away from having adequate enforcement at all levels.”
Mr. Zeldin also reiterated concern about staffing issues, saying that a part of basic government function is ensuring that such a building is fully staffed and that someone is inside to help at all times. Mr. Zeldin continued by saying this is the worst possible time to consolidate the barracks, adding that such a move threatens the security of those who live in the community.
Speculation that the Riverside barracks could go dark at times dates back several years and started to become a reality in the spring when Captain David Candelaria, who leads the nearly three dozen State Troopers currently stationed at the Riverside barracks, said his desk officer position could be eliminated before the start of the summer.
In an October 22 letter, Mr. LaValle and Mr. Thiele requested that both Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico intercede and kill the effort before it gets under way. Officials confirmed earlier in October that the front door to the barracks could go dark at times, and emergency calls rerouted to a dispatcher in Farmingdale, so that the Troopers can trim dispatching costs while also placing another Trooper out on the road for patrols.
More letters have been sent since, including one written by Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine P. Scalera, that was addressed to Mr. D’Amico. In her letter, she addressed a concern that a police patrol car was to be removed from Riverside between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., a time when a significant portion of the crime takes place.
“This, if true, contradicts your stated purpose in cutting the desk Trooper position, but more importantly, creates an even worse scenario than anticipated,” Ms. Scalera wrote in her email.
A call placed to the governor’s office was not immediately returned.
“I think it’s really bad,” said Flanders resident Dana Dolan, who attended Monday’s press conference. “That’s when the majority of the crime takes place, such as the 70 car break-ins over the past few months.”
Gale Baldwin, who lives in the nearby Riverwoods Mobile Home Park in Riverside, said there is a need for the barracks to remain fully staffed and unlocked at all hours.
“We have crime in our park, drugs and other undesirable things,” Ms. Baldwin said. “We need the patrols and the extra protection.”
Ms. Baldwin said she was once approached from behind while walking down the street. The man, who she said was recently arrested, asked her for money.
“It’s really real here,” she said. “I think the people that are doing the things they shouldn’t be doing need to know there’s a constant police presence.”