Many members of the Plainview-Old Bethpage community gathered for a community meeting at Howard B. Mattlin Middle School last week following a drug deal gone wrong in Haypath Park that ended in the murder of 22-year-old Stefon Pierre.
In the meeting hosted by Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker of Plainview, the lawmaker was joined by Town of Oyster Bay supervisor Joseph Saladino, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and other town officials in discussing the steps that can be made to make the park safer, while also reassuring residents that this was an uncommon occurrence for the area.
“Although drug use and drug abuse is evident in every community, we can work together through education, awareness, prevention and effective treatment, and we can continue to make strides in reducing drug abuse,” said Drucker. “In terms of the violence that occured, this was an isolated incident. This is not a situation here where we are faced with a crime-ridden community. Doesn’t mean security improvements won’t have to be made.”
Saladino said at the meeting that, days after the incident, new gates were put up at the park and that they are being locked every evening, which includes gates for pedestrians and for cars. In addition, new signage has been added to all of the entrances that informs people of the use of security cameras in the park, as well as a sign that says the park closes at dusk. Public safety officers have also been patrolling the area.
“Just because the incidents at this park are very infrequent doesn’t mean we will not be proactive,” said Saladino. “We will be prepared. We’ve already been responsive. We want you to know that the safety of this community, the well-being of you, your families and your children, is our top priority for our town and we continue to prove it every single day.”
Ryder recounted the night of the crime for the residents and reiterated to the public that all of those at the scene that night, including the shooter, have been arrested. He then talked about how crime in the area is low and that the police department is doing everything they can to keep it that way.
“You are all here because of Haypath,” said Ryder. “You are here because you live in a county where we don’t condone any type of crime or violence. The crime is extremely low in this area, but we are going to increase our patrols and we have since that night.”
These officials then faced questions from the community, with some still concerned that they don’t want to be in the park alone. Many residents expressed concern that there isn’t enough of a police presence at area parks and that they need to do more patrolling around the perimeter for any activity at night. Ryder said that the parks are safe and that police will always be on standby if residents see unusual activity.
“The parks are safe in the daytime,” said Ryder. “When the gates are locked and it’s under darkness, there are cameras [owned by the Town of Oyster Bay] that are present that are the most robust of the townships in Nassau County. But kids are still going to hop the fence. Call us exactly like you do. They will respond. Our pop cops will put it into their matrix. They keep scheduling different dates and we go back and we are constantly doing irregular patrolling.”
Town of Oyster Bay Councilman Louis Imbroto, a lifelong resident of Plainview who stepped in for Saladino for the rest of the meeting, said that the public can contact the town’s public safety department if they see any serious security issue that needs addressing by calling 516-677-5350 or visiting its website at www.oysterbaytown.com/departments/public-safety.