Police chief, others say shooting incident not reflective of downtown

01/09/2014 2:02 PM |
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A 19-year-old Bellport teen fled a shooting in this marina parking lot in downtown Riverhead Wednesday night.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A 19-year-old Bellport teen fled a shooting in this marina parking lot in downtown Riverhead Wednesday night.

The day after shots were fired in the Treasure Cove Marina parking lot in downtown Riverhead, downtown business owners, employees and the town’s police chief all said the “isolated incident” isn’t representative of the area’s improved safety.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said police are still investigating the Wednesday night shooting — in which a Bellport teen was fired upon by two masked people about 11:15 p.m. — but have found no connections between the incident and any other criminal activity in town.

Police said Jerome Eleazer, 19, appeared to be the intended target of the shooting and that it was not a random act. Mr. Eleazer, who was not injured, told police he didn’t want to pursue the incident further.

Chief Hegermiller said downtown is a safe area, but stressed the public should always remain vigilant.

“Whether it’s a hurricane or a snowstorm or whether you’re out in public, you always have to be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “Gone are the days of just walking around without having to be aware.”

Numbers on incidents downtown last year were not immediately available, but Chief Hegermiller said he believes reports will show crime either stayed steady or dropped in the area from 2012 to 2013.

He also praised efforts by the department’s Juvenile Aid Bureau and Riverhead schools to decrease gang activity in town.

“We definitely have identified gang members, but I think Riverhead has good handle on it,” he said. “There are many communities that look to Riverhead and what we do here. We have a lot of the right pieces in place.”

Hyatt Place East End executive director Bryan DeLuca said the shooting was a “very isolated incident” that shouldn’t be a reflection on the overall safety of the area.

The hotel and adjoining marina will cooperate with police if asked, he said. He also said that earlier reports by police that the victim of the shooting was a guest at the hotel were incorrect; the teenager was not a registered guest. Guests normally park in the lot across East Main Street, he said.

Mr. DeLuca said the gate to enter the Treasure Cove Marina parking lot is closed to visitors at night, but added that those parked inside can leave freely.

He also said that a security camera watches the marina loading area. There is currently no camera in the back lot.

Security also patrol the campus, which includes the hotel, marine and the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, at night.

Mr. DeLuca said the hotel isn’t considering changes to it’s security policy, adding that the business has a strong relationship with local police who walk the area.

“We’re confident in what we’re doing here,” he said. “I don’t know that we need to revisit anything.”

Other business owners said Thursday morning that they’ve noticed the town’s beefed up police patrols downtown.

“I’m very confident that they’re doing everything in their power,” said Riverhead Gold & Diamond Co. manager Joe Tascarella. “You can’t be everywhere … With the growth [on the East End], things are going to happen.”

Mr. Tascarella, a Rocky Point resident, said areas like Patchogue and Bay Shore encountered similar problems with crime and rebounded; Riverhead, he said, has been steadily improving.

“It’s unfortunate that people will now trash the town,” he said.

Jerry Dicecco, executive chef and owner of Jerry and the Mermaid adjacent  to the marina, called the marina a “safe, beautiful place” and said the shooting didn’t seem to be connected to downtown.

“It just happened to be here,” he said.

Blue Duck Bakery manager Renee Duarte said she was worried about safety downtown before she was hired.

“It was my concern when I was getting a job here,” she said. “Is this a safe place to work? It’s proven to be that.”

She said there “certainly is a police prescence” downtown.

“I’ve felt safe,” she said.

Wednesday night’s shooting a few hundred feet down the road doesn’t change that.

psquire@timesreview.com