Questions have surrounded the county's plan to re-organize the police department, despite details being outlined at a neighborhood watch meeting two weeks ago. Legis. Dennis Dunne, R-Levittown, has set out to find the answers.
"Let’s address everything now before we move on with this, if in fact we do," he said.
According to Dunne, adjustments are still being made to the plan that involves turning Levittown's Eighth Precinct into a Community Policing Center. The Eighth Precinct covers Levittown and far northern sections of Wantagh and Seaford.
"As questions come out, and they’re valid questions, the administration appears to be addressing them and giving us a little bit of comfort with what the plan is."
A major concern was that some of the remaining precincts were outdated. He had specific concerns about the safety of witnesses who plan to speak against criminals.
"When you have a perpetrator, brought into the precinct, which is small, and then you have the witnesses come in, you bring in the victim, and they can see each other," he said. "You kind of put at risk the privacy, the ability to talk to the police officer without being subjected to the bad guy watching or listening or seeing you."
Dunne was also concerned about criminals from different areas of Nassau entering his constituents' more docile communities.
"If they get released and they have to find their way home walking through the streets, they could be casing the houses in Seaford and Wantagh,” he said. “We really don’t want that."
Dunne said the county responded with a plan to retrofit the precincts that plan to hold criminals. They will also retrofit County headquarters in Mineola to accommodate more arrests, which allows police to save time on transporting criminals over long distances to precincts.
“Say it’s something that happened in the North Village Green,” Dunne said. “It might be closer for that cop to go to Mineola than to go all the way to Woodbury. The cop will then go to Mineola because it’s a shorter, faster drive.”
If the plan passes, the community policing centers will also be converted one by one as the process is adopted, according to Dunne.
“They’re going to be able to learn as they go,” he said. “Instead of doing all of the precincts at one time, and then find a simple thing they didn’t see that’s right in front of their face, and then have to address all eight buildings, it will be a lot easier and cheaper and better to do it this way.”
As alterations are made, the pricing of the project may change. The Nassau County Office of Legislative Budget Review determined that the project will save the County $19.2 million dollars per year. Savings for 2012, where the plan would begin in March and include attrition incentives, would be lower, in the $9 million to $12 million range. As plans to retrofit buildings are adapted, the first-year savings could shrink further, but Dunne anticipates that the savings will stay consistently at $19.2 million after the first year.
The plan passed through a public safety committee (of which Dunne is the chairperson) and comes up for a vote in the Legislature on Feb. 27. Dunne still considers himself undecided and said he will continue to listen closely to all of the information presented.
“It sounds like they did give a lot of thought to it, but I want all of the concerns addressed,” he said. “I’m still playing with the idea. I’m encouraged that they’re addressing our concerns. We have less than two weeks to continue to do our homework.”