By Jano Tantongco
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone expects the town’s armed park rangers to begin their weekend patrols by Labor Day.
The town has selected six rangers, soon to be formally hired following background checks, according to A.J. Carter, town spokesman. They are expected to earn $23.53 an hour, and must possess either a police or peace officer certification.
Petrone said that the six rangers are comprised of both current park rangers and police officers, with particular concentration on Huntington Station.
The rangers’ patrols center around town-owned property, including parks and buildings, but they will have jurisdiction anywhere within town lines, Carter later said.
“When you have somebody there that’s watching constantly, number one, you deter crime, number two, they have the ability… they can act,” Petrone said.
To start, the rangers will conduct their patrols on weekends, but the eventual goal is to have them expand to the regular week, Petrone said. The park rangers will be enabled as peace officers and can make arrests. Arrestees would be brought to a local Suffolk County Police Department precinct and would be logged into their system.
Of the two initial patrol routes, one will proceed east from the center of Huntington Station, and the other will proceed west. They’ll make use of patrol cars, two of which will be out any given time.
Petrone said he had a meeting with Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini last week to discuss collaboration between the rangers and police officers.
Sini said in an interview Wednesday that a new branch of the department’s Firearm Suppression Team has been created specifically for Huntington Station and will work in tandem with the rangers to leverage each other's assets.
“A part of the function of the FAST team is to gather intelligence regarding firearm violence in Huntington Station,” Sini said. “We’ll be collaborating with the rangers to be sure we’re sharing information.”
Sini said nine officers make up the new team and report directly to police headquarters, calling them the “Navy SEALs of the department.”
Sini said overall crime in Huntington Station has decreased by 11.7 percent since last year. That marks “historic lows” for the area, highlighting the efficacy of increased focus on the area.