Based on information to date or, rather, a lack thereof, I oppose County Executive Edward Mangano's police precinct closure plan, which he labels an “enhanced” approach to policing. Last year, Mr. Mangano proposed closing two police precincts. Now, he wants double that number, cutting half our county’s precincts.
To close four precincts – two of which are among the three busiest in the county – is irresponsible, fiscally and logically. It is also troubling that the County Executive is using public funds and/or phone lists for robo-calls to tout his plan and provide misinformation regarding alleged savings.
It is difficult to back a plan that eliminates our precincts, and replaces them with community centers, staffed by only two police officers, especially when we are experiencing an increase in crime. At one of the precincts set to close, the First, major crime is up almost 14 percent. During the past year alone, burglaries are up an astounding 24 percent.
We have seen a rise in prescription drug abuse, senior home invasions, armed robberies and other serious crimes throughout the county. Our County Executive continues to reduce our police force (now below 2,300 when it was 2,700 in 2009) and jeopardize public safety, despite this documented increase in violent crime and his elimination of our special patrols such as problem-oriented police, heroin taskforce, anti-gang unit, DWI, plainclothes and traffic enforcement.
Mr. Mangano says his plan will save money. But, he has consistently gotten his numbers wrong. Massive layoffs were to save $75 million, but only saved $21 million. Yet, spending on outside contracts to politically connected firms and administrative costs are up over $20 million.
Additionally, Mr. Mangano’s administration has failed to collect more than $44 million in unpaid traffic fines. The county has not saved what he says it will save, and his administration does not collect revenue that he budgeted from his unprecedented fee increases.
Taxes will not decrease with these police cuts. The only thing to decrease is the service received for the taxes being paid – 108 officers and four precincts less. So why should we believe him this time? I am not willing to compromise our quality of life and public safety on his word.
On Monday at a hearing, the actual plan was first presented to me without research, details or facts to back up “projected” savings of $20 million. The “plan” does not include a fiscal analysis or a single word about associated costs or how much will be spent in incentive pay.
At this public safety hearing, my questions went unanswered and the hearing was recessed. The plan neglects to mention how existing precincts will house twice the activities or the cost to renovate these community policing centers, which will replace the First, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Precinct buildings, or what these centers will be. No information was provided about $15 million being spent on a new First Precinct (community center?) or what will happen to ambulances or other functions operated from the closed precincts.
There are too many unanswered questions for this plan to receive my support. Nassau residents pay some of the highest taxes in the country. In return, at the very least, our quality of life and public safety must be protected and not jeopardized.
Input from community leaders and residents is always welcome. I am hosting a meeting with Leg. Scannell and on Feb. 16 with the North and Central Merrick Civic Association. There will be a hearing on Monday, Feb. 13 at 11 am, at the County Legislature and I encourage anyone who feels strongly regarding this issue to come and speak.
If you cannot attend, please send me a statement to give to County Executive Mangano and Majority Leader Schmitt about the precinct closings. You can call my office at 571-6219 or email me at email@example.com.
Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick