By Danny Schrafel
In the aftermath of the stabbing death of 18-year-old Walt Whitman High School senior Maggie Rosales – the fourth unsolved homicide in the hamlet in a year’s time – residents have sparked a renewed push for the county to reopen a Second Precinct police annex.
Part of that push is reflected in a change.org petition which has 475 signatures as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“This is something people want… What they’ve been doing hasn’t been working the way they wanted it to,” said Matt Harris, a Huntington Station community advocate who supports a new annex, which would serve as a satellite office to the Second Precinct’s Park Avenue headquarters.
He suggested placing the annex in an auxiliary building on Depot Road, owned by Station Sports proprietor Brad Rosen. Rosen said police already have access to that building, which is currently a town Public Safety facility, so staffing it with police officers wouldn’t be a heavy lift, he said.
Huntington Station resident Jim McGoldrick, however, said using an empty gas station at the five-way intersection of Depot, Fairgrounds and Pulaski Roads would have more impact.
“Let the town, the county, the state… let the revitalization group [Renaissance Downtowns] find out what they want for that property and let them chip in,” he said.
In the meantime, town officials announced that, as of Wednesday, the Station Sports Public Safety building will be staffed daily with town officers until 11 p.m. to “provide a public presence” and create a place for residents to drop in, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.
The Second Precinct annex that closed in 2006 was located near the corner of Pulaski Road and Route 110. In 2010, following a spike in violent crime that began in 2008, a push from residents and lawmakers began to reopen it, but then-County Executive Steve Levy opposed the plan on fiscal and logistical fronts.
Suffolk Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport), whose 18th legislative district includes a large portion of Huntington Station, said he supports an annex, but there are concerns about countywide implications.
“One of the concerns is that a true annex is a manned facility… To do that countywide in different areas would be a substantial issue in terms of resources,” he said.
However, he did confirm he is working to establish a high-visibility “relief point, where shift changes would occur and reports would be filed, which Spencer said would get cops into the highest-need areas.
Amidst the renewed push for a Second Precinct annex, there has been a veritable flurry of action aimed at keeping Huntington Station’s well-being front and center.
In an Oct. 23 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) asked the Department of Justice about specific programs and funding opportunities that are available to “support and enhance the efforts of local law enforcement agencies.”
But before federal resources arrive, the Suffolk County Police Department has already stepped up patrols in a noticeable way, some residents said, reporting an increase in bicycle, cruiser and foot patrols.
“We want the people to notice us and feel safe with the stronger police presence,” said Kevin Fallon, deputy chief of the Suffolk County PD.
A Huntington Violence Task Force, implemented quietly in the summer, has yielded the arrests of 296 people on 438 total charges and nabbed 41 gang members, according to county police officials. Those include dozens of felony arrests, 134 misdemeanor charges and an uptick in public-nuisance charges such as open container violations and trespassing.
South Huntington’s Mary Beth Steenson Kraese, who helped organize the Oct. 21 “Maggie Matters” march on Huntington Town Hall, said she is encouraged by the activity – but hopes “it’s not a Band-Aid” on the problem.
“I want people to be able to walk their dogs in the neighborhood again and for kids to be able to play street hockey and basketball without worrying,” she said.
Community members are set to pray for that and more this Saturday at a “Stand Up For Peace” candlelight vigil, set for 1 p.m. Nov. 1, at the corner of Church Street and New York Avenue in Huntington Station.