By Jano Tantongco
Town of Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said that three to four park rangers are expected to be hired in the coming weeks to help prevent crime in the Huntington Station area.
Petrone said the rangers would have a peace officer designation, meaning that they would carry firearms. Further, he said, the job opening will be advertised, seeking either police officers who have been retired for no more than four years, or police officers with available shifts while they are off duty.
“The protocols that are followed by a police officer in Suffolk County will be followed directly by these officers,” Petrone said.
Petrone added that the measure would be “another cooperative measure” with Suffolk County police “to rid the areas of some of the crime and nuisance.”
He added that the town’s program would be managed by its Public Safety Department under the direction of Deputy Director Dennis Ryan, who’s a retired NYPD officer.
When asked about which parks would be patrolled and whether rangers would stay within the confines of such parks, town spokesman A.J. Carter said those details were not available.
There are “a lot of details that need to be finalized,” he said.
The move comes after just weeks after a series of shootings in Huntington Station that prompted Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini to call upon the department’s newly-created Firearm Suppression Team to work with the Second Squad in response to safety concerns in the area.
"The Suffolk County Police Department is coordinating with the Town of Huntington on public safety initiatives in Huntington Station,” Justin Meyers, Suffolk County police spokesman, stated in an email Wednesday.
Former NYPD officer and current Huntington Station resident Robert Rockelein said the new initiative represented a tighter focus on the issues of the station.
“Coming from an urban police department, it was what I suggested all along. You need feet on the ground to see things you miss when you drive by,” Rockelein said. “Both on the civilian side and criminal justice side, there are things you miss regardless of how diligent you are.”
June Margolin, president of the Huntington Matters civic group, said the step marks a move toward a multi-level partnership among various institutions. She said in light of the spike in crime over the years, the town stepped up code enforcement, while police became more aggressive in their actions, but that they “weren’t actually working together.”
“Each organization was doing what they could, independently of each other,” Margolin said.
Jim McGoldrick, community activist and Huntington Station resident, said it was Sini’s involvement that is responsible for catalyzing the new focus on safety in the area.
“I called it March madness: You had two shootings, four stabbings, and then they robbed a convent twice. Now they’re into the houses of worship,” he said. “I think Commissioner Sini’s involvement… is what brought everybody together. When there’s a problem in an area, he floods it.
“That was the Rudy Giuliani effect.”