Nassau officials unveil crime-fighting initiative

Nassau officials unveil crime-fighting initiative
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announces the county's Overwatch program Friday. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

A new method of policing is coming to Nassau County following recent acts of violence on a local and national scale, county officials announced Friday.

A total of 20 police officers in patrol vehicles will be deployed on a daily basis in Nassau County to prevent potential crimes from occurring at places of worship, schools and other high-profile areas, officials said.

The initiative, known as the Overwatch program, divides Nassau into four quadrants and will go into effect Saturday, following test runs Thursday and Friday, according to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

The department, Ryder said, will send out teams of four police officers and a supervisor and will spend an equal amount of time in each quadrant. Each quadrant will have the same number of representatives surveilling the same amount of time, he said.

“This is spending equal time throughout our critical infrastructure to protect those that come to pray, protect those that go to school and protect those that are at any kind of major event,” Ryder said outside the Mineola Police Department Friday.

Overwatch teams will be “traveling at or below the speed limit” with their lights on, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said.

“We want them to be out there, we want them to be seen,” Blakeman said.

“They will roam through these areas with their lights on and they will act as a presence,” Ryder said. “Constant and irregular patrol is how we offset what the bad guy is thinking.”

Officers who participate in the program, officials said, will be taken out of their respective precincts, but they stressed overtime costs will not be increasing. High-crime areas, Ryder said, will receive the same amount of vigilance from the program as others in Nassau.

The program, according to Blakeman, is designed so that usual response times to crimes or incidents will remain intact, having police present within 15 minutes of any location in Nassau.

The initiative comes during Ramadan, ahead of other springtime religious holidays, and following the stabbing of a 13-year-old Lindenhurst Middle School student and the fatal shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville last week.

Blakeman said the Overwatch program sends a message to county residents and those looking at Nassau as a place to carry out crimes.

“This is not a place where it’s going to be opportune for you to commit a crime,” Blakeman said. “To our residents and our business visitors and our guests, this is a safe county and we’re going to keep it safe. We’re on the offensive and we’re going to be proactive.”

The county executive also cited cashless bail and raise-the-age laws as reasons Nassau should be more proactive with its policing, touting the work the county’s uniformed officers do to protect residents.

“There are laws that were promulgated in Albany that I believe made us less safe,” Blakeman said. “It is very important that our departments stay on the cutting edge of policing, using technology personnel, engineering, every tool we have necessary and especially intelligence.”

Major crimes increased by 41% in Nassau County in 2022, headlined by a 43% increase in grand larcenies and a 35% increase in burglaries, according to a Newsday report earlier this year.

Nassau reported 7,394 major crimes in 2022, an increase from the 5,230 reported by the department in 2021.

The list of major crimes includes murder, rape, criminal sexual acts, sexual abuse, grand larceny, commercial robberies, other robberies, assault felonies, residential burglaries, other burglaries and stolen vehicles.

The 41% rise in Nassau crimes compared to a 15% increase in Suffolk County, according to Newsday’s report. New York City recently reported a 22% jump in major crimes for 2022 tempered by a year-end drop.

Previous reports on crime statistics in Nassau conducted by Blank Slate Media compared figures from Jan. 1- Oct. 10 in 2021 and 2022.

The 2021 year-end major crime statistics were obtained by Blank Slate Media under a Freedom of Information Law request submitted to the Nassau County Police Department. The 2022 major crime statistics through Oct. 10 on the department websites were the most up-to-date figures published as of Tuesday.

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