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Police chief outlines plan to add additional downtown sector

The Riverhead Police Department is asking the Town Board to create a second sector in downtown Riverhead, a move that would require adding three full-time officers, according to Chief David Hagermiller.

The chief, along with Lieutenant Sean Egan and Det. Sgt. Ed Frost, met with the Town Board Thursday to discuss downtown police.

The department would need an additional 3.6 officers — a number that represents the officers who would patrol the new sector during the course of a day and the cost of filling that position when there are sick days, vacations or other absences, Chief Hegermiller explained.

Downtown is currently patrolled by sector 607, which stretches from Osborn Avenue on the west and Ostrander Avenue on the east. It is bordered on the south by the Peconic River and on the north by Second Street and Railroad Avenue.

The proposed change would spilt the existing sector in half at Roanoke Avenue, with the new 608 sector on the west and the reconfigured 607 sector on the east. The new 608 sector would extend into part of Polish Town.

“I had asked you, chief, to come up with some sort of comprehensive policing plan to accompany the revitalization of downtown and also to help improve the overall image of Railroad Avenue,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

The department’s recommendations for downtown include the new sector, which would be a foot and bike patrol covering West Main Street, Railroad Avenue, the library and Pulaski Street. Also, police inquired about investing in a camera and drone surveillance system for Main Street, the Parking District, the Peconic Riverfront, Grangebel Park, Railroad Avenue and Pulaski Street.

“New York City Police have cameras everywhere,” Det. Sgt. Frost said, adding that Babylon and Smithtown also have been using cameras.

“Video that catches a crime is golden,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to get cameras since Ed Densieski was on the board,” Chief Hegermiller said. “We’ve come off eight years of zero money. You can’t get anything.”

“We have limited resources to do all these things,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

She wants the police to submit a list of priorities that they would like to see funded.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the Summerwind building that she is an owner of has security cameras and those images are often shared with police.

She said other downtown businesses do likewise.

“I’d like it to come from the police department,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

Det. Sgt. Frost said the camera equipment changes every four or five years, so the town would need to hire an expert to oversee the system.

Lt. Egan said the town needs to fix the street lights before it gets cameras.

The police would like the town increase street lighting on Main Street, the Parking District, Railroad Avenue, Pulaski Street, Second Street, and all roads leading south to Main Street and Ostrander Avenue south of Corwin Street.

Also suggested by police was tree trimming around overhead lighting; a metered parking system; a system of call boxes that connect directly to police; having a private courier service, instead of police officers, accompany town employees making bank depositions, and license plate readers that automatically captures the Department of Motor Vehicles registration information of passing cars.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, a former town police officer, said that downtown Riverhead suffers from the perception that there is crime.

“The situations we have are related situations, not random acts of crime,” he said.

“We had a shooting at midnight on Maple Avenue, that makes people nervous,” the supervisor said.

“That wasn’t a random act,” Mr. Hubbard said, indicating that the victim and suspect knew each other.

Mr. Hubbard said he thinks the the foot patrol “will have a big impact” in cleaning up downtown.

“I’m pleased that we are adding the sector,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.

Chief Hegermiller said afterward that the additional sector will be part of his 2019 budget request.

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