In the most spirited debate of the recent Meet The Candidates Night forum, emotions ran high and opinions differed greatly between Town Board candidates when asked about plans to change the "negative image that's being perpetrated throughout the media and throughout the community" regarding crime in Huntington Station.
Interestingly, with all candidates agreeing that more enforcement is needed in speeches at the South Huntington Public Library Oct. 20 regarding crime, the NAACP forum moderator did not say there was a crime problem in Huntington Station — only the perception of one.
Ripping elected officials who he says have have not done enough to solve the crime problem, candidate Eugene Cook called for an increased number of police and a louder voice to get things changed.
"I heard Mr. Bellone and he had a lot of great things to say, but tell us how many more police officers would have been there, that was disappointing," said Cook, . "Yes, we have Shot Spotter, but I'm disappointed that we have to have it now. I believe it's our politicians that should have been up there screaming when there were shootings and violence going on saying enough was enough."
Cook said if elected Nov. 8 he will be "screaming for this community to get this work done."
In his most lively speech of the campaign, Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow offered a bold plan to possibly restore a police department to the Town Huntington for more control over crime.
Morrow explained, that there are 10 towns in Suffolk County, five with police departments, and 32 villages, 17 with police departments.
"In 1962 the county charter changed and the Town of Huntington lost a police department," said Morrow, a Republican. "I'm all about trying and thinking about new ideas maybe we need to restore the Town of Huntington's police department. Maybe we need to take control of our own destiny."
Ripping what he called "political nonsense" from County Executive Steve Levy and the police department which has helped to cause crime to grow throughout the county and in Huntington, Morrow said maybe it's a "crazy idea," but it's time to come to the table with new ideas and stop talking abut the same "stuff" repeatedly.
"When you have a single police department, like the 17 villages and five towns do, you control everything," said Morrow. "You control code and you control all of the law enforcement."... "We keep talking about the same stuff over and over and over again and I think some of us need to come to the table think about and talk about new ideas."
Incumbent Town Board Democrat Glenda Jackson said she was opposed to the closing of the police annex in Huntington Station and will continue to push to get it reopened.
"I will certainly would look to advocate to look to the county and police department to reopen an annex here in Huntington Station," said Jackson.
Jackson said she will continue to try to enhance code enforcement which she said is something is something the town "can't do enough of." She said some current initiatives could be changed.
"Youth programs we have but they could be tweeked they could be expanded upon maybe we could look at what exactly what we are doing and try to revamp the system that we currently have," said Jackson. "So that's something that I would be open to do."
Democrat Susan Berland said the crime problem exists, but she criticized the media for not focusing more on the good kids of Huntington Station.
While taking some of the credit for the initiation of the Shot Spotter program, Berland noted that more police are "absolutely" needed and a new county executive "that is willing to put police where his mouth is" will be beneficial.
But what she wanted to focus on, Berland said, was perception.
"There are a lot of members of the media here and in all due respect I love you, you're fantastic, but why don't you concentrate on all of the good kids in Huntington Station?"
Warning that perception sometimes becomes the reality, she said more "positivity" is needed despite the existence of dangerous crime.
"Are there gangs in Huntington, yeah, said Berland. "Are some of the guys home grown? ... yeah. Are people getting shot? Unfortunately it's terrible. Are people coming from outside our town to do the shooting? Yes they are."
But Berland said there so many more kids who are "wonderful and fantastic" in Huntington Station who do good things and win awards.
"We give proclamations to kids all the time, said Berland. "And I hear, oh, you just want to show up for another photo op. You betcha! I'll show up for any single photo op for any kid in this town who has done something well to support the good things. Let's go forward with posivivity and show what a great place Huntington Station is an what a great town it is and maybe start changing the perception so that we can start concentarting on the positive."