Laura Curran

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Drugs Don’t Fight Fair, We Can Fight Smart

When people think of the suburbs they don’t necessarily imagine a drug epidemic. But Nassau County police, first responders, nurses, doctors, social workers, educators, and, above all, children and families, are battling it out with a drug that turns neighbor into user, user into addict, and addict into criminal.

Nothing about this epidemic is normal, nothing about it is fair. Drugs don’t fight fair. So we have to fight smart.

Our multifaceted response – incorporating enforcement, awareness, education, diversion, and treatment – is equal parts grit and compassion.

Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and his team are using real-time reporting to identify clusters of major felonies associated with drug addicts (such as breaking into cars to scrounge for money or stuff to sell), and overlaying that information with clusters of overdoses. When these clusters overlap, we know we have a problem, and law enforcement zeroes in.

This data-driven approach is producing results. Drug overdoses are down in Nassau, when we compare year-to-date statistics with last year.

As this goes to print, we have already targeted two communities. I joined Commissioner Ryder and District Attorney Madeline Singas to announce 78 drug-related arrests in East Meadow. Earlier, we announced 59 heroin and opioid-related arrests in Massapequa, including the arrest of four alleged dealers. By systematically identifying and concentrating on hotspots, we are better able to remove dealers from the streets and divert users to the help they desperately need.

We plan to roll out more operations in more communities in the coming weeks.

But we cannot arrest ourselves out of this crisis. Dealers should, and will, face serious penalties. Users and addicts, however, can get an opportunity to enter into treatment. This effort is being led by our DA and police commissioner, and I stand ready to support them in any way I can, including directing the new head of the county’s behavioral health department to pursue state and federal funding to increase treatment options.

Government cannot fight this alone. We are working closely with our nonprofits and drug-treatment providers. And we are actively seeking the public’s help. Along with expanding the police department’s social media presence to target a younger audience (checkout #MugShotMonday), we are holding town hall meetings in communities that have a higher incidence of overdoses. We bring in law enforcement, first responders, and treatment providers to talk about what the danger is, what to look out for, and how our communities can be part of the solution.

When we arm ourselves with the right information, hold dealers accountable, and help those suffering with addiction, we can win this fight.

An Historic First Act: Removing Politics From Government

Laura Curran gave her first speech as Nassau County Executive to a crowd braving sub-freezing tempera- tures on New Year’s Day. (Photo by Irwin Mendlinger)

I know I’m not breaking news when I tell you we’ve inherited a mess in Nassau County government. My team and I have been hard at work these first two months.

We’ve been tackling an unfair and inaccurate assessment system, sorting out disastrous finances, combatting opioids, and charting a path for true economic development. But we will not be successful in these crucial tasks if we neglect one thing – restoring trust in government.

It’s no secret that “trust-worthy government” is too often dismissed as a chortle-worthy oxymoron. So concurrent to our other work, my administration has taken concrete steps to restore that trust.

One of my first acts as Nassau County Executive was to issue an executive order barring any member of my staff, including department heads, commissioners and deputies, from holding a position of authority in a political party or committee. I’ve also prohibited all appointees from contributing to my political campaigns because I want to there be no question as to why I’ve appointed them – because they are the right people with the right qualifications.

Another executive order, which I signed late last month, prohibits vendors who do business with the county from giving gifts or favors – of any value – to county appointees involved in the vendor procurement process. The days of pay-to-play are over.

Issuing these orders – to take the politics out of government – were among my first government-reform actions, but they certainly won’t be my last.

That’s why I have appointed former New York State Assistant Attorney General, and member of the U.S. Army Reserves, John Chiara as Deputy County Executive for Compliance. John fills a position that had been vacant for many years. Most recently, he served as special counsel to the New York State Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau. At my direction, John has a clear mandate to enforce our new ethics and procurement policies.

Along with fixing Nassau’s finances and creating a business-friendly government, my administration will continue working to end a culture of corruption that has squandered millions in taxpayer dollars and eroded the trust any government needs to be truly effective.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County Executive