Suffolk County police are rejoining the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force following three Central Islip murders in two days last week, effectively reversing a decision to quit the collaboration last fall.
Chief of Department James Burke announced the policy backtrack Monday at the Third Precinct in Bay Shore while outlining that and other steps police have been taking to address the slayings—two of which detectives have said they suspect involve gangs.
“When we removed the detectives from the Long Island Gang Task Force, we felt that was the best deployment of our officers,” Burke told reporters at a news conference. “Now, the key critical thing here is making the public know that we are doing everything possible to make them safer. We felt it was prudent to assign those officers back to the task force.”
When the Press first reported that Suffolk police quit the task force last year, Burke said the three detectives dedicated to the unit were reassigned because of staff and budget shortages. He said the brass is still deciding which two detectives will be assigned now.
“I was opposed to them leaving it in the first instance,” Suffolk Legis. Rick Montano (D-Central Islip) said upon learning the news from the Press. “I’m glad that they rejoined the task force. I think that they’re an important element of solving gang-related crime and hopefully we’ll be able to have some apprehensions in these recent murders that we had in Central Islip and prevent further gang activity.”
Lenny Tucker, president of the Brentwood Association of Concerned Citizens, was also relieved to learn from the Press that Suffolk police rejoined the FBI gang task force.
“Naturally, I’m ecstatic,” Tucker said. “I’ve noticed that they’ve been doing aggressive patrols since the shootings.”
He added that he was glad to see that the police stepped up their game before community outrage began to boil over like it did during a spike in gang murders in the area in 2009 and 2010.
“It doesn’t seem like the police department is just sitting by idle this time,” Tucker said. “Now it seems like they’re being a little bit more proactive.”
FBI spokesman James Margolin said the agency welcomed Suffolk police back into the task force with open arms.
“It’s a good thing, we’re pleased,” he said. “We’re happy that they’re going to be participating again.”
Chief Burke said he hopes rejoining the task force, beefing up patrols and adding school resource officers in the community will help temper residents’ concerns.
“If you have a fearful community, you have an ineffective partner in fighting crime,” he said. “The police-community partnership is key.”