Southampton Town Police are working diligently to find the person or people responsible for the shooting last week on Brown Street in Riverside that injured a 16-year-old, Police Chief Steven Skrynecki told residents at a civic association meeting in Flanders last night.
“I can say with great confidence that this case will be solved,” Skrynecki told the standing-room-only crowd at the Crohan Center, where the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association convened its meeting early so the chief could address the group.
Residents, who have longed complain about crime in the area — and lack of adequate police protection there — were rattled by the shooting last Wednesday morning in the area of Brown Street and Goodridge Avenue, steps away from both a community park and an elementary school.
The incident followed on the heels of a report the previous morning by students waiting for a school bus at Anchor Street and Bell Avenue of a man with a gun.
Police detectives have ruled out a connection between the two incidents, Skrynecki said. He said that the report of a man with a shotgun or rifle the day before the shooting had not yet been verified by police. A different weapon was used in the shooting on Brown Street, the chief noted.
Skrynecki did not provide details about the Brown Street shooting, which he said is under active investigation by police detectives. Asked by residents if the shooting was gang-related, drug-related or a domestic incident, Skrynecki demurred.
“I can tell you it’s going to be gang-related, or drug-related or a community dispute — possibly all three,” the chief answered. “I can’t tell you more until we make an arrest.”
A house in the area of the shooting “has been on our radar for quite some time,” Skrynecki said. “There have been arrests there in the past, there will be arrests in the future. That house is known to us. Things are going on there — this is an anomaly, thank God. Let’s make sure it stays an anomaly.”
A resident asked if Southampton Town Police are working with ICE or would be willing to bring ICE in to help them deal with crime. Skrynecki said the incident is not a problem for ICE. The local police work cooperatively with ICE, which he said works in the community all the time.
“There needs to be a sweep down there,” said the man, who did not identify himself and left the meeting before it ended. “We have a need for ICE. We need a sweep,” the man said.
“I’m more interested in gangs and the drugs, the things driving this undesirable conduct,” Skrynecki said.
Gang activity in the area is “more Bloods-Crips kind of stuff, not MS-13 or 18th Street,” the chief said.
The graffiti that appeared in the park at Wildwood Lake last month — tags associated with the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs — was more “wannabe kids” than the result of a “significant rooted presence” of those gangs.
“We think that graffiti was a result of kids getting thrown out of that park a few nights before,” Skrynecki said. The graffiti in the park targeted police specifically.
Skrynecki’s message to the community was that Southampton police are working diligently on the case and the police take very seriously the problems faced by the hamlets in the town’s southwestern corner.
An extra patrol unit has been assigned to the sector, the chief said, and special community response units are in the area.
Skrynecki said the he has also formed a task force with State Police to concentrate on gang activity in the area.
Local police are working very closely with the district attorney’s East End Drug Task Force, which he said is concentrating on the Riverside-Flanders area “harder than any other part of the East End” except downtown Riverhead.
The department’s community response unit is focusing on a prostitution abatement initiative, Skrynecki said. He declined to give details of that initiative publicly.
Flanders resident Susan Tocci and Riverside Rediscovered community liaison Siris Barrios both said residents have noticed an increase in police presence in the area and were grateful for it.
With the cooperation of Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini, Southampton police are also working with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the chief said.
“If a case is such that it can be prosecuted in federal court for a bigger bang, we will work with federal prosecutors, so we can take a hard whack” with tougher charges and longer sentences, Skrynecki said.
The town board has also just authorized the department to hire a crime analyst who Skrynecki said is going to “live on social media” to find and assess criminal activity being discussed on social media platforms.
The chief said community involvement is perhaps the most important piece of the effort to rid the area of crime.
“Nothing is going to help us more to move forward,” Skrynecki said. “Right now there’s a $5,000 reward out there for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the shooting.”
He said the police department has reached out to local clergy and wants the people in the community who may be afraid to speak directly with police to know they can communicate with the department through local clergy. He asked residents to spread the word about that through the community.
“The town board hired me for a reason,” said Skrynecki, the former Nassau County chief of department who was hired by the Town of Southampton last year. “They brought me in here to study these problems. They looked at my track record,” he said.
“Improving your area right now is my number one priority — number one,” Skrynecki said, drawing applause from the crowd.