Patrols ramped up to spot drug users
Patchogue Village director of public safety Jim Berberich, with Fifth Precinct police officers Eric Bowen and Kevin Mischo from the COPE unit, will be beefing up patrols in several areas where hypodermic needles have been found.

ADV/Leuzzi

Patrols ramped up to spot drug users

Story By: LINDA LEUZZI
4/20/2017


Patrols will be increased around the areas of Artspace, Oak Street between Maple Avenue and Route 112, and the cemetery near Father Tortora Park by both Suffolk County police and Patchogue public safety.

“[Hypodermic needles] are showing up all over because of the opioid epidemic and the public has to be diligent,” said Fifth Precinct police officer Kevin Mischo.

“Residents can call 911 and a local sector car will come to discard that,” said police officer Eric Bowen. (Mischo and Bowen are officers in the COPE unit.) Village director of public safety Jim Berberich said his department had just obtained sharps containers.

The uptick in patrols is in response to local complaints of increased discarded needles found on local properties and also drug activity, especially in areas of low public use.

Theresa Skelaney, who has lived in Artspace for almost two years, said she has been finding needles in the parking lot, the garden areas and nearby on people’s lawns and also in a car since she moved in. “It’s not every day, but pretty regularly,” she said. Skelaney said she calls public safety and police when she sees the needles and points out that people walk their dogs in those areas and utilize them with their children. “There’s one still in the Artspace garden,” she said Tuesday night. Skelaney said the streetlight on Taylor Lane is out and replacing it would help.

Joseph Franzese, who attends Patchogue Village board meetings on occasion, has lived on Oak Street off Maple Avenue for four years. He lives next door to a boarded-up home that is about be torn down for a Long Island Housing Partnership residence.

“I’ve seen some sketchy goings-on at least once a week; a lot is coming from this place,” he said, pointing to the boarded home. “I’ve found hypodermic needles on my front lawn.

“A lot of it is systemic; the lighting is inadequate. You have this light here and then there is a long gap without one to the middle of the block.” 

Franzese suggested police sit on Wood Avenue facing their area.

His neighbor, who requested anonymity, said the drug activity picks up when the nicer weather starts blooming. The Oak Street resident said there was a home around the corner on Rose Avenue whose property abuts against her house. “I’ve had people walking in my yard and police in my backyard with German Shepherds,” she said.  

“In the spring, I get nervous,” she said. “It’s a cut-through block.”

Both said they like living in the village. 

“[The mayor] is doing a good job repairing things, but we’re the forgotten block,” she said, referring to the lights, nefarious activity and street pavement requested.

Both said they have called in complaints regarding the drug activity. 

Mayor Paul Pontieri said that the village obtained the property next door to Franzese from the county for delinquent taxes. “We transferred it to the Long Island Housing Partnership,” he said.  “They’ll demolish it and put the property into a land trust and build a new home for affordable housing and it will be sold. That’s done. It could be taken down probably within the next couple of weeks. The designs they showed, it will be a nice addition.” He said village department of public works would look at the block for additional lighting.

Over by Father Tortora Park, which is a block away from the Fifth Precinct on Waverly Avenue, resident Cathie Norton Doherty, who is one of the vigilant members of the Father Tortora Park Community Watch Facebook page, said that East 2nd Street is a hotspot in Patchogue Village for wrongdoings. 

“We’re in a dead-end area and can’t seem to get the patrols we need,” she said. “We see a lot of activity on East 2nd Street and in the driveway that runs through St. Francis de Sales cemetery. This cemetery is wide open; there’s no gates and I think that might deter this if they close them at night.”  

According to Doherty, “we’ve been told by a few people in the Heatherwood Apartments complex that there is a particular building that has drug activity and people who sell drugs,” she said. 

Berberich said cameras were scheduled to be installed in Father Tortora Park, which will be opening again soon. 

“There was talk at one time of putting them in the cemetery, but it never happened,” Doherty added.

Bowen urged residents to take down the time, the license plate and vehicle descriptions of suspicious activities. And to call 631-852-NARC; Patchogue Public Safety can be reached at 631-475-1225.