Riverhead Police responded to fewer criminal incidents in 2010 than in the previous year, making it two consecutive years that the number has declined.
While that’s welcome news, Police Chief David Hegermiller says the drop since 2008 is not large enough to be statistically significant. He described the state of crime in the town as being status quo.
“I’m glad to see that the trend is continuing to go down, but it’s really all in the same ballpark,” Chief Hegermiller said.
Criminal incidents dropped from 4,291 in 2008 to 3,832 in 2009 to 3,772 in 2010, according to department statistics. The number of criminal incidents in Riverhead Town is down by 59 percent over the past nine years, from 5,997 in 2001.
“I think it’s all relative,” the chief continued. “I don’t think we have this huge crime problem here compared to, say, New York City. But compared to other East End towns, we’re probably high.”
The chief said the recent gang-related drug dealing ring busted in Riverhead in conjunction with the East End Drug Task Force shows that there’s still serious crime in town, despite what the stats indicate.
Among other police stats from 2009 to 2010, the overall calls for service, including both criminal incidents and non-criminal incidents like responding to an accident, were up, from 25,875 to 26,675.
Arrests were down (1,273 to 1,233), as were driving under the influence cases (191 to 151), robberies (43 to 33), rape (7 to 3), murder (1 to 0), sex offenses (14 to 7) and motor vehicle theft (125 to 44).
Categories that went up include burglary (165 to 171), larceny (919 to 1,034) and criminal mischief (303 to 365).
Riverhead Chamber of Commerce president Janine Nebons said she has yet to survey her members for feedback on crime issues, but she said her own perspective is that people are more proactive about managing their business when times are tougher.
“When times are challenging, people pay closer attention to every detail of their business and criminal activity is part of that,” she said.
Ms. Nebons, who is general manager of Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead, said that just as people are less likely to throw trash on something that’s clean, they are also less likely to try to burglarize businesses that are paying closer attention to shoplifters.
“From a Tanger perspective, I think our security is better trained and doing a better job now than in past years, and so are our store managers,” Ms. Nebons said. They are using better communication policies, being more aware and following an “if you see something, say something” philosophy on crime, she said.
In downtown Riverhead, Ray Pickersgill, president of the downtown Business Improvement District’s management association, said he felt as if crime was down.
“I think crime is down completely in the town,” he said. “The only crime we had here was from the Casa Rica [bar and restaurant] and now they’re gone. And even when they were here, the only crime was them. It’s been very quiet since they’re gone.”