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May 15, 2018 12:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Police Chief Says Flanders Shooting Might Have Been Gang-Related

Southampton Town Police Chief address Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association regarding Riverside shooting. ELSIE BOSKAMP
May 15, 2018 2:00 PM

A shooting that occurred in Riverside on the morning of Wednesday, May 9, is still under investigation but most likely was gang- or drug-related, Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki told members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association on Monday night.

According to Chief Skrynecki, multiple rounds were fired at the intersection of Brown Street and Goodridge Avenue in Riverside, resulting in a 16-year-old boy being shot in the foot—and the nearby Phillips Avenue Elementary School being put on lockout.

“We are doing a very good job at this point of unmasking this and figuring out what went on,” Chief Skrynecki said. “We have a pretty good idea of what happened. This is a solvable case.”

The 16-year-old who was injured in the incident was treated at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, and Southampton Town Police have contacted Child Protective Services to investigate his well-being, Chief Skrynecki told the dozens of people in attendance at the FRNCA meeting, some of whom send their children to Phillips Avenue Elementary School.

After three separate calls were made to police reporting the shooting on Wednesday at approximately 9:40 a.m., the elementary school was put on lockout as a precaution, and a Southampton Town Police school resource officer was stationed there, the chief said.

A few people who live in the area offered information on the shooting, but after the initial investigation, detectives found forensic evidence and have since executed four search warrants, according to Chief Skrynecki.

Chief Skrynecki declined to speak about the specifics of the incident, as it is an ongoing investigation, but told concerned citizens on Monday that the shooting was likely related to a dispute involving two well-known street gangs, the Bloods and the Crips, which he said have a local presence.

Anyone who has information is urged to call Southampton Town Police. A reward of $5,000 will be given to anyone who discloses information that leads to an arrest, he said.

The chief also said that one of the homes located in the area of the shooting has been a concern for a while, noting that arrests have been made there in the past.

“That house has been on our radar for quite some time,” Chief Skrynecki said. “There’s a problem with the occupants in that house, and it’s concerning, but we are aware of it.”

Susan Tocci, a resident of Flanders who works in Riverside near the area where an incident unfolded, applauded Chief Skrynecki for an increase in police presence, which she said she noticed over the past few months, but also expressed deep concerns.

“I lock my door when it’s late—it’s like the zombies come out,” Ms. Tocci said. “I have a 4-year-old I need to register for kindergarten, and I keep putting it off, because I’m concerned. I see what’s happening in that area, and I am very concerned for my child, because of the gang activity, because of the drug activity, because of the prostitution. We need help there—we need a lot of help.”

Chief Skrynecki said that patrolling the Riverside area is one of his top priorities. Since becoming chief last year, he has placed a second sector car in the area, and began working with a task force, set up with State Police, to combat gang-related crimes. The Southampton Town Board also just approved his pitch to hire a crime analyst, who will be responsible for scanning social media and online chat rooms for criminal activity.

“Our job is to keep people safe, everybody in the community,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said at Monday’s meeting. “If someone doesn’t feel safe, they need to be able to feel like they can go to the police department.”

The chief also said that school safety is a top priority. According to Chief Skrynecki, a school resource officer will be assigned to each school district in the town, and that “every school district in the township is interested” in participating in his plan to give police access to school camera surveillance systems during an emergency incident.

In regard to the lockdown that occurred at Phillips Avenue Elementary School, Laurie Downs, a member of the Riverhead Board of Education, said, “It was amazing how quickly everything transpired. I don’t live there, I live on the other side of the river, but those children are also my children.”

Chief Skrynecki urged community members to maintain good communication with police and said he is working to supplement the increased police presence in the Riverside, Northampton and Flanders area with new technologies, although he did not reveal specifics.

“Nothing is going to help us more than you, because you see what’s going on, you know what’s going on,” he said. “We have a cancer that we have to get rid of.”

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