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Chief: Riverside shooting may be gang-related; arrest likely

Southampton Police Chief Steven Skrynecki addresses Monday’s FRNCA meeting.

Police believe the shooting that took place in Riverside last week involved gangs and drugs, according to Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki. 

“We have a pretty good idea of what happened,” he told the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association Monday. “I know we’re going to solve it.”

The shooting occurred last Wednesday, May 9, at about 9:40 a.m. near the intersection of Brown Street and Goodrich Avenue in Riverside. Chief Skrynecki said there were several calls to police from people who heard gunshots, and police later learned a 16-year old was shot in the foot. Several rounds were fired, the chief said.

The good news, he said, was that people called the police, something that didn’t always happen when he was Chief of Department in Nassau County and people were sometimes too afraid to call.

When officers arrived at the scene of the Riverside shooting, however, very few people were offering information to police about what they saw or heard, he said.

The town police responded with uniformed officers, detectives and Community Response Unit officers, and the state police assisted, the chief said.

Police told officials at nearby Phillips Avenue Elementary School to remain in lockdown, so no one could get in or out of the building, until police said it was safe. Roads in the area where also closed off, he said.

The case is still under investigation.

The shooting in Riverside comes about a month after gang graffiti was found on the bathroom at the town’s Wildwood Lake beach. The town has been working with a task force set up in conjunction with state police, but Chief Skrynecki said that graffiti “is probably not indicative of a significant gang problem.”

He said police believe it was “wannabe” gang kids writing 18th Street gang graffiti and anti-police messages, because they were kicked out of the park a few days earlier.

But he said the main issues facing the Flanders-Riverside-Northampton area do include gangs, drug dealing, prostitution and now violence. He said the shooting in Riverside appears to be “Bloods-Crips kind of stuff,” referring to two well-known gangs.

“I am so committed to improving your area,” the Chief said at Monday’s FRNCA meeting. “That is my number one priority.”

Among the changes since he became chief last year are having a second sector car in the area. That’s a request residents had made for years.

There are also more New York State police in the area, as well as town officers from the CRU, he said.

“I have more officers every night here,” he said, adding that town police also work with the District Attorney’s East End Drug Task Force.

“I’ve seen a huge increase in police presence,” said Flanders resident Susan Tocci. A number of other people at the meeting agreed.

An issue that’s growing in schools throughout the town is the number of threats of violence being made by students, including through social media, the chief said.

“These kinds of things, in case you don’t know, are criminal acts,” he said.

Students,  however, often think it’s a joke or prank, he said.

“But then after they make these comments and it gets to our attention, and we’re putting handcuffs on a 14-year-old, it’s a look of shock,” the chief said.

The department plans to distribute a letter to parents on this subject.

Another plan the police have for school districts includes allowing video surveillance camera feeds from school districts to be accessed by police at a 911 center, Chief Skrynecki said. This way, if there was something going on inside a school building, the responding officers would be able to see what’s going on before they even reach the scene, the chief said.

In addition to that, all of the school districts in Southampton will have “school resource officers,” a police officer who will be assigned to individual schools, giving each district a direct conduit to the police. The SRO will also provide regular training programs for faculty and the student body, Chief Skrynecki said.

The Riverhead School District, which covers parts of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns, is also planning to have an SRO, according to school board member Laurie Downs.

Chief Skrynecki said they will have one SRO per school district, but not per school building.

He said the most important thing residents can do is to provide information to police about crimes in their neighborhood.

“Nothing is going to help us more than the people in the community who see what’s going on and who know what’s going on,” Chief Skrynecki said.

Along those lines, he said, the Southampton Town Board just approved the hiring of a crime analyst, who will study crime patterns and search online and elsewhere for information on crimes.

“It’s a critical piece of 21st Century policing,” the chief said.

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