Officer Anthony Montalbano walks his beat on East Main Street last week. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)
Last year, a string of violent robberies targeting Hispanic and homeless residents in downtown Riverhead catapulted the town’s relationship with its Spanish-speaking communities back onto the front pages.
But despite the high-profile incidents that had some questioning the safety of Riverhead, year-round data compiled by the Riverhead Police Department tells a bit of a different story.
According to a monthly report recently released by the department, the total number of reported criminal incidents — especially drunken driving and drug possession — dropped in 2014 compared to the previous year. The report states that 3,447 incidents were documented by police last year, down from 3,502 in 2013.
That decrease continues an overall trend of fewer reported criminal incidents in the past decade, despite a growing population in Riverhead Town.
“The police department is doing a fabulous job,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, who also serves as the town’s police commissioner. “Obviously, these past two weeks downtown we had some painful events. Hopefully that’s an anomaly.”
National trends show that fewer serious crimes have been reported nationwide during the same period.
Among the larger drops in reported incidents in Riverhead Town were driving under the influence arrests, down to 174 in 2014 from 209 in 2013. Incidents of drug possession and sales were also reportedly down from 101 in 2013 to 83 last year.
Car theft, burglaries and robberies were also down, according to the data.
The only criminal incidents to increase were larcenies, up slightly; two more rapes in 2014 and one more prostitution arrest than in 2013. More motor vehicle accidents were also reported in 2014 — a total of 2,169 — though there were slightly fewer fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Mr. Walter said the drop in criminal incidents is thanks to some “tremendous enforcement” by the department.
“From the police chief through the captain to the rank-and-file patrol officers in the sector cars, this is a testament to the work they do for this town,” Mr. Walter said.