Suffolk Police Bring Back Foot Patrols To Enforce Social Distancing Rules

A pair of Suffolk County police officers patrol Main Street on Islip on foot on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Long Island Press photo)

Suffolk County police officers are stepping up the bygone practice of patrolling on foot as authorities seek to enforce rules prohibiting gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Foot patrols have been restored on Main Streets in downtown areas that are home to many of the county’s non-essential small businesses that New York State mandated to remain temporarily closed until social distancing restrictions can be safely lifted.

“We surged into those downtown areas on foot patrol,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, “… to ensure social distancing is occurring and compliance with non-essential businesses and also protecting those businesses and making sure that they’re safe during this period.”

Across the county line, a Nassau County police spokeswoman said the department is not increasing foot patrols during the COVID-19 crisis.

Outside of some small village police departments or large events such as fairs and concerts that require foot patrols on a piecemeal basis, cops walking the beat are largely a thing of the past on LI, where suburban sprawl has long since required that officers drive around their assigned precinct sectors in police cruisers.

Aside from some burglars recently busted while under the mistaken impression that police are too distracted by coronavirus to fight crime, officials in both counties have said crime is down due to the pandemic. But since some people are refusing to comply with the health directives, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has increased penalties from $500 to $1,000 for violating social distancing rules.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the foot patrols are also intended to help ease business owners’ worried minds during the shutdown.

“There’s been a lot of concern from small businesses … that while they’re closed that there’s a greater risk that they may be burglarized,” he said. “So we wanna allay those concerns and at the same time we wanna enforce … social distancing.”

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