North Shore officials and civic leaders said they welcome the partial return of a community police program, but some say there are still gaps in police service only an additional fully staffed precinct can fill.
Starting in November, 16 problem-oriented police, or POP, officers tasked with responding directly to residents’ concerns have returned to Nassau County’s five police precincts, a Nassau County police spokesman said.
The police department has assigned four POP officers to the Third Precinct, with two each in the North and South Subdivisions.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter suspended the program in 2014 due to budgetary constraints, and residents had consistently pushed for its return since then, the police spokesman said.
Helping the move was the addition of 183 new officers in the police department’s largest recruit class in 20 years, he said, which will aid staffing problems generally.
The Sixth Precinct had a total of four POP officers before it merged with the Third Precinct in 2012 as a cost-saving measure.
Civic leaders and officials in the North Subdivision — which includes Manhasset, Roslyn and Great Neck — called for the Sixth Precinct’s return last month, citing a decline in service and a lack of actual savings.
They praised the POP officers’ return, but said this week the need for a full precinct goes beyond the program.
While reinstating some POP officers is a start to improving North Hempstead’s police service, Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement, it’s “a far cry from the police presence our communities need and deserve.”
Bosworth followed the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations in writing a letter in December calling for the county to undo the precincts’ merger.
Though he thinks the partial restoration of the POP program “signals a positive direction” in police service, Richard Bentley, president of the umbrella group of Manhasset civic associations, said the area still lacks the foot patrols, undercover officers and traffic enforcement the former Sixth Precinct provided.
One of the precinct’s current POP officers was assigned there before, he said; but in general, spreading the precinct too thin has made it less connected with the community and harder for police leadership to follow up on crime and quality-of-life issues.
“(I)t was all the other things that go along with a fully functional police precinct that have been missing since the consolidation, and that’s what we look forward to having restored by re-establishing the Sixth Precinct,” Bentley said.
The police spokesman said there’s a possibility of adding POP officers to certain areas if there’s a demonstrated need.
Village of East Hills Deputy Mayor Manny Zuckerman said the village plans to work with officers to reduce both crime and speeding there, adding that he hopes the restoration of the POP program is permanent.
East Hills saw a home break in and violent robbery in two weeks last month.
The village still wants the Sixth Precinct reinstated, Zuckerman said, so it can have “a full component of police to investigate and prevent crime.”
Efforts to reach Krumpter and police Inspector John Berry, the Third Precinct’s commanding officer, to comment on specific concerns were unavailing.