Great Neck mayors back village police use

Great Neck mayors back village police use

Great Neck village mayors have argued that the benefits of a village police force outweigh the costs, but don’t expect any more villages on the peninsula to establish their own police forces.
Steve Kirschner, mayor of the  Village of Russell Gardens, whose village does not have its own police department, said that even if a village wanted to implement its own force, it is “incredibly difficult” to do so.
Since the county police department was formed in 1960, Kirschner said, the law requires villages looking to have their own police departments to obtain approvals from both the county and state legislatures.
He said that about 20 years ago, the village looked at receiving police services from the Great Neck Estates Police Department.
But Great Neck Estates officials thought that expanding services would leave their police force “too thin,” Kirschner said.
Although county police services are adequate, he said, he spoke with the Third Precinct commander, John Berry, six months ago about improving police protection in the village.
“Over the past six months, we’ve gotten a much better presence,” Kirschner said. “It’s not a great deal, but far better than prior to that six months.”
 Adam Hoffman,  mayor of the  Village of Lake Success, said that the benefits of having a village police force are worth the additional cost.
“I think residents are comforted in knowing the response time is quicker,” Hoffman said. “The response time is almost instantaneous,’’ he said, and  “if you’re away, your house is watched over’’ and  ‘‘someone’s patrolling your neighborhood.’’
All residents in Nassau pay a “headquarters tax,” which covers specialty police services, including homicide, robbery and canine squads, that are outside the capacity of village police departments. Residents of villages with their own police forces do not have to pay an additional “district tax,” which covers standard services for villages and unincorporated areas that  rely on county police.
Detective Lt. Richard LeBrun, a Nassau County police spokesman, said that “the fee that is assigned is related to the assessed value of each individual home or property.”
Lake Success, Hoffman said, has looked into the difference in cost for county police services versus village police services, and found that the difference is “not so great per house.”
“Even though it may cost us a little more per home, we feel that the extra little cost between what we’d pay for with Nassau County and our own department is well worth the expense for the residents,” he said.
The Lake Success Police Department accounted for about $4.53 million of the village’s approximate $14.39 million 2016-17 budget.
According to the village website, about 45 percent of the village’s tax valuation is residential, while the remaining tax base consists of commercial and industrial properties.
Village of Kings Point Police Department officers were not only the highest paid police force in the state last year, but the highest paid department in any municipality, according to a report released by the Empire Center for Public Policy.
According to the report, which used a payroll database of both part-time and full-time employees actively enrolled in the state pension system as of August 2016, Kings Point’s 21 police officers received an average salary of $222,394.
According to, Empire Center’s transparency website that lists municipal payrolls, six of the top 20 highest paid village employees in the state were Kings Point police officers.
“The residents of Kings Point benefit from around-the-clock police patrols and protection, resulting in an extremely effective deterrent against crime and an average response time of less than two minutes,” Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick said of the salaries. “Residents benefit from more personal interaction with members of the department, such as the ability to notify the police if they are going out of town for an extended period.”
Kalnick said police officers and administrators work closely with village officials “to maintain a safe and secure community.”
“The village enjoys a low crime rate and village officials are pleased with the police department’s fast response time, performance and dedication to the residents of Kings Point,” he said.
Kings Point’s 2016-17 fiscal year budget calls for the village to spend about $5.47 million of its $16.88 million budget on the police department.
“Police salaries are determined by contract negotiations between the village and the PBA,” Kalnick said. “If the parties cannot agree, the process moves to mediation and then binding arbitration for a final determination.”
Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin, whose village has its own police department, said that before she  became mayor the village studied potential savings if it used county police services.
Lopatkin said the study found that “there apparently wasn’t much of a cost saving, as compared to the enormous change in our village if we didn’t have our own police force.”
She said that a village police force allows residents to feel safer.
“Our residents know our police by name, and our police know our residents,” Lopatkin said. “They patrol constantly, something we would lose if we were to be under the Nassau County police.”
She also said that a village police department can boost property values since “people are very interested in moving here due to the visible police presence and patrols.”
About $1.32 million of Kensington’s $3.14 million 2016-17 budget is allotted to the police department.
The Village of Great Neck Estates also has its own police department.
The Great Neck Estates Police Department accounts for about $2.7 million of the village’s $9.59 million 2016-17 budget.
Efforts to reach the Great Neck Estates mayor, David Fox, were unavailing.
While four Great Neck villages have their own police departments, the villages of Great Neck Plaza, Great Neck, Saddle Rock, Thomaston and Russell Gardens, some of which have more residents and a business district,use the services of the Nassau County Police Department.
In Great Neck Plaza, there are 6,925 residents, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. There are also over 260 retail stores in the village.
In the Village of Great Neck, there are 10,143 residents, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. There are also over 130 retail stores in the village.
Efforts to reach Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender and Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral were unavailing.

By Joe Nikic

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