By Jano Tantongco
Suffolk police and federal agents are partnering to create a “hot list” of known and potential violent criminals, and get illegal guns off the streets, in high-crime areas like Huntington Station.
The Firearm Suppression Team, announced last week, is a Suffolk police initiative that is planned to work in tandem with federal agents from the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
The patrol component of the Suffolk initiative will consist of one lieutenant, two sergeants and eight police officers. The investigative side will be made up of one sergeant and five detectives. Assigning personnel to the team will be complete by next week, police said.
Two new Suffolk detectives have also been added to both the ATF Task Force and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force. These detectives will act as liaisons between Suffolk police and federal agencies.
“It’s going to be a dynamic initiative,” Timothy Sini, acting Suffolk police commissioner, said last week during a press conference announcing the partnership. “Wherever the crime is happening, FAST will be.”
Sini said the initiative will focus on particular areas in Suffolk, including Huntington Station.
June Margolin, president of the civic group Huntington Matters, said Monday she is hopeful that the new initiative will help keep Huntington streets safer.
“It’s fantastic because it opens up a whole new level of prosecuting under federal standards that we don’t have access to locally,” she said. “It’s going to be an expeditious way to deal with crime situations that we’ve been plagued with for decades.”
According to Sini, the number of illegal guns seized countywide has spiked in recent years. In 2015, 330 illegal guns were brought in, an increase from the 189 that were taken in 2014. Sini attributed the increase to a variety of factors, including what he said is an observation of illegal guns being funneled into the state from the South.
Sini said FAST will also work to create a “hot list” composed of individuals deemed by law enforcement officials to be at-risk for committing violent crimes. FAST will attempt to intervene by adopting a community relations strategy that includes “custom notifications,” which are direct communications from community leaders and law enforcement to those groups considered to be at-risk.
“It’s a way to stop a beef, stop retaliation, stop violence before it happens,” Sini said. “We gather intelligence to figure out who’s involved. We engage them, we have community leaders there.
Other components of FAST include a planned “Trigger Lock” program that will enable local law enforcement officials to bring a gun arrest case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution, allowing for greater punishments and sentences.
Additionally, Suffolk County Crime Stoppers are planning implement a $500 cash reward for information leading to the arrest of someone in possession of an illegal firearm. Unlike typical rewards, which may take up about two months to process, these rewards will be delivered within about two weeks’ time.