“We’re up in some categories, we’re down in some categories,” Nassau County Police Inspector Sean McCarthy said Tuesday night, addressing the Mineola Chamber of Commerce during its monthly meeting at Piccola Bussola, quoting statistics from the village in the last six months of 2011 vs. 2012 directly. “But net-net, most of that fluctuation is within a seasonal or like a regular variation. It’s really been a tumultuous time period for the police department the last six months and for the Third Precinct in particular.”
He did state that the precinct’s year-end stats were “bumped up a little last year, our year-end stats were up a couple of percentage points.”
The relatively new inspector has had a plethora of high-profile activities, from the presidential debate at Hofstra University, which took a year of planning, sustaining the loss of two officers back-to-back (which both occurred occurring within the boundaries of the precinct), arresting 100 intoxicated youths at an event at the Nassau Coliseum the night they buried officer Artie Lopez – including impounding a helicopter – and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“One went to LIJ, one went to North Shore,” McCarthy said of the officers, thanking Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss for “extending his facility and the level of capacity and understanding his staff displayed to us during both of those incidents was really commendable.”
In regards to Sandy, “events like that, we do planning, 120 hours out, 96 hours out and so on and so on and so on, you have your benchmarks as your days move along,” McCarthy said. “And we did what we could and we were really kinda surprised as I think everybody was by the amount of damage that we suffered.”
The precinct didn’t have enough police to man all the intersections, so it was decided to man none.
“The first couple of days that seemed to work out fine, everybody was ‘we’re in it together, right, this is a disaster’,” he said. “By the end of two days, it was like Lord of the Flies. We learned a lot about what we should be doing, all the things that were breaking around us.”
In one situation that went “viral” and has become a model for other areas of both the country and the world, officers set up a traffic circle on Glen Cove Road and Northern Boulevard “just because I guess they were tired of standing there,” McCarthy said. “It just sprang out of sheer laziness because that kind of an intersection takes four cars and a light truck and it’s really complicated.”
Part of how the circle came to be was that the precinct also ran out of cones, barrels, flares and police tape.
“We had stockpiles of that stuff and we ran through it,” McCarthy said, noting the week-long power outage.
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McCarthy was chosen to be the head of the Third Precinct after former inspector Kevin Kanavan was promoted to chief. He confided that he lobbied for the position, having spent most of his career in the area of both the third and sixth precincts, which were recently combined. A 1985 graduate of the police academy when it was still housed at the Cross Street School in Williston Park, he was a member of the sixth precinct before enrolling in medical school and working as a police paramedic for 5 years.
After that he drove a sector car officer in the Third Precinct for 5 years, worked community affairs for 3 years, then drove a post car in the sixth for an additional five years. He then took the OSHA (Occupational Health Safety Act) at police headquarters, was the administrator for the support division, deputy of personnel accounting, the deputy at the police academy and worked as the sixth precinct deputy before being named the deputy at the third precinct in June 2009.
“I’ve been around,” he laughed. “There’s nobody in the organization, I don’t believe, that knows the combined command as well as I do, both the geography and the different groups within it as well as the personnel that are assigned to carry out the work of the police department.”
While the consolidation of the sixth and third precincts has been completed, it is not yet finished across the county.
“I don’t know what their intentions are,” he said. “The first and seventh are the last consolidation... is on hold. I don’t know if it’s going to go forward.”
Referring to the original precinct area and the newly integrated sixth as “Third South” and “Third North,” respectively, McCarthy said that little has changed from what the public will see. Personnel remained at locations and post boundaries, the number of cars and areas of responsibility remained the same.
“That is reassuring to hear for a lot of people,” he said. “Frankly as a police commander, I’d like a lot more discretion in how my manpower gets allocated, but it is what it is in that regard. From an operational street-level point of view, the cop who shows up in the car, that really hasn’t changed.”
The biggest change was that the third squad was supplemented with personnel from the sixth.
“That is by far the busiest detective squad in the county,” McCarthy said, noting their per capita case load came down and the supervisors have “flip-flopped” in terms of coverage areas.
“The geography of the two commands are quite different, so it was a bit of a shock for my guys from here to run up and ride around Tappen Beach, it was nice for them, they really liked it, and then some of the guys from the north came down here. You have to realize they lost a building, they lost kinda one of their anchors up there and it was my job to kinda provide the information to be available both to the cops – a lot of uncertainty – and to the many and diverse communities up there, school districts, villages, etc.”
McCarthy was also allowed to bring on two additional POP officers, two from north and two from south. Officer Kevin Sikorski had previously served as POP officer for Mineola.
“Kevin never left but it did get to the point where he was the only POP cop that if he would see my car pull in the parking lot, he would literally run out the building,” McCarthy said. “He just didn’t want to make eye contact with me because I had about a half dozen things for him to do on any given day.”
Former POP officer Nick Moesesso was also brought back and there is another POP cop in training.
“I look at those community oriented policing guys as my Swiss Army knives, they really can do everything and they are great representation of the police department,” McCarthy said. We give them the intractable stuff that maybe a post car is maybe long-term for a post car to get a grip on.”
Describing the eight precincts as “little fiefdoms,” McCarthy said that of their practices during the consolidation of the third and sixth, “all that had to be interwoven. That has been an ongoing process; it hasn’t all been roses.”
McCarthy was also asked about what the department is doing in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown and curbing gun-related violence.
“As far as the long gun stuff, I’m Switzerland, we do what we’re directed to do,” he said.
The department has held several “active shooter seminars” for schools, developers, libraries and where there are large public gatherings.
“The idea of those seminars is to let the people who own those facilities and those venues where such an event might take place, was to give them an idea of what the police would do if something like that happened at their facility, what actions would we take, what could they do to make our job easier and reduce the level of uncertainty in our interactions with a school faculty member or with a library staffer or a mall security director.”
POP officers also stopped into every school after the tragedy.
“We intensely patrolled most of the schools just to more have a physical presence, but these things are exceptionally, exceptionally rare events,” said McCarthy, who is a parent of three. “I get what it’s like to send your kid off to school and just kind of assume up until Newtown happened that everything’s going to be ok, they’re going to get off the bus at three o’clock; that kind of rattled everybody.”
New York State does provide active shooter guidelines to local boards of education, but “while the state has to say ‘do this, do this, do this,’ we usually say more ‘you should do this, you could do this’ so we don’t necessarily line up,” McCarthy said. “Gun violence in Nassau County isn’t that frequent, not really.”
The most common occurrence however, is larcenies.
“With all the retail I have, we call it ‘glass,’ I’ve got a lot of glass,” he said, noting most of the activity is in grand larceny form and comes from Roosevelt Field and on Corporate Drive in Westbury, explaining that a wallet with $900 in cash is petit larceny while an empty wallet with credit cards is grand.
The Third Precinct handled 1,500 grand larceny cases from Roosevelt Field before the consolidation, more than the combined total of four precincts. There were a total of 3,500-4,000 arrests out of the Third Precinct last year. The precinct maintains a substation manned by about 10 officers in the mall that have become “exceptionally good” at electronic fraud and identity thefts McCarthy said, “just because they see a ton of it and they get to work with a lot of the card companies.”
Bank robberies are “not common” as many people believe according to the inspector, as proceeds taken now are often smaller, the cases become high-profile, banks have hardened their technology security such as video and and also trading information about thieves in addition to the everyman on the street.
“If you witnessed a crime when we were 20 years old, what did you do? You went ‘oh my God’ and then you ran somewhere and found a phone with a wire on it and you called the police and that took time,” McCarthy said. “And now not only does every store, almost every store has some video, point-of-sale stuff and also security minded stuff... but also everybody’s got a cell phone, so somebody sees something, they take out their phone and they go ‘click’ and you can send that so in virtually real time we get really valuable, accurate, targeted information.”
Of bigger concern to McCarthy is the subject of identity theft, of which he and his wife have been victims of via their credit cards.
“The money in identity theft is some guy sitting at a computer terminal in his bedroom in Poland just siphoning off money,” McCarthy said. “For years and years it was treated as a victimless crime. Somebody’s out $3,000 somewhere. Usually there’s good landed on a phony address and got picked.” noting the crime is not usually picked up unless a certain threshold is met and that someone “can make a good living doing identity theft work with virtually no possibility that they are going to get apprehended. And then once they get apprehended, virtually no possibility that those people who were apprehended are going to do any jail time.”
He also cautioned to be on the look out for bank card skimmers that are slid into card readers at ATMs and at gas stations.
“There’s dozens of ways to do identity theft; it’s like an arms race. And frankly the front lines on it are the credit card companies and the banks.”
In Mineola there have been several complaints by residents about traffic problems in the village and surrounding area. McCarthy reported that “summons production is coming back,” but “it’s not where it was in 2010, but it’s headed in the right direction.”
Summonses issued by the Nassau County Police Department had decreased 35 percent at one point. McCarthy asked residents to reach out to him regarding problem intersections as well as the time and day of week when most problems occur.
“If there’s particular locations that are problematic,” he said, “I can address them over time.”