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Troopers Urge Community To Reach Out For Help

Troopers are ready to lend a hand, station commander said.

Call me, definitely.

New York State Troopers are ready and willing to help the community -- all they have to do is call.

So said Sgt. Paul Slevinski, Station Commander of SP Riverside, who spoke to members and guests at the October meeting of the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Civic Associaton, held Wednesday at the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders.

Slevinksi, who has been a state trooper for 35 years and in Riverside since 1988, began his presentation by giving an overview of the history of the New York State Police, which have been in existence since 1917.

State police were founded, he said, by two women after a murder in Westchester County.

The Riverside barracks, which currently holds 26 troopers but is built to hold 60, Slevinksi said, "is a full service police station," that handles robberies, rape, and burglaries. There is a myth, he said, that troopers only write tickets on state highways.

Slevinksi said he wanted to come and address the FRNCA group after an earlier meeting, where residents raised their voices about escalating crime in the area -- but did not know they could call the state troopers for help, as well as dialing 911.

"Of course you can call the state police," he said.

Unfortunately, Slevinksi said, most people are not aware that state police are ready and able to help. "We do the full gamut of police work -- homicides, rapes, murders, aircraft accident -- and that message is not getting out there."

Far from just writing traffic tickets, Slevinksi said troopers also handle landlord and domestic disputes and respond to more domestic incidents than accidents.

The only drawback to calling the state police, he said, is that residents have to dial the barracks directly. "We're not in the 911 system, due to a lack of foresight in the 1960s," he said.

But, Slevinski added, the numbers for state police on the East End have been the same for decades and can be found in the phone book or by calling for directory assistance; he suggested the number be put in phones on speed dial.

"A lot of times, things can be solved with a simple phone call," Slevinksi said. "If you have a problem and we don't hear from you, we can't help you solve it,. We're the best-kept secret in law enforcement. That doesn't help us, and it doesn't help you. If we can assist you, we will, with big problems and small problems."

For example, he pointed out, residents have been complaining about shopping carts outside the old diner at the Riverside traffic circle; a simple phone call to the owner could clear that up.

But, Slevinksi added, 911 is critical, too -- the state troopers patrol all five of the East End towns and Fisher's Island, between May through November, and 911 response might be more expeditious.

The state troopers, Slevinski added, have specialized areas including an air wing with 13 helicopters, six fixed wing aircraft, and 40 pilots, snowmobiles and ATV units.

"I'm not going to tell you we can fix everything but don't be afraid to call. No job is too big, and no job is too small. We're here to help the community," Slevinski said.

Resident Kathy Levinson, who lives in Riverwoods, said she often enjoys walking in the beautiful preserve behind her property but, in the past, has found it littered with mattresses, beer bottles, and cigarettes, a "scary situation," that could lead to fire and jeopardize the senior citizens' mobile home community, she said.

While that situation was addressed, Levinson said she went walking two weeks ago and saw some men "hiding out" in the woods and shouting at her. "We have a problem back there that needs to be resolved," she said.

Slevinki said if she had notified state police, they could have investigated the issue and said it would be addressed moving forward. "We can at least get the ball rolling," he said. "Quality of life is very important."

Troopers, Slevinksi said, patrol all road in the five East End towns, doubling up at night for safety reasons in "hairy" areas.

One woman asked if state police posed a duplication of services that residents had to pay for, in addition to normal town and county police. Others in the crowd said there is a need for more, not less, police protection.

Other concerns included questions regarding safety on New York State Route 24; FRNCA president Brad Bender said the next meeting, on Nov. 14, would be focused on issues concerning Route 24.

One resident asked how the state police were named the lead agency in the recent case involving a young child found buried in the backyard in Farmingdale. "That investigation originated upstate," Slevinski said, adding that he could not comment further.

Other questions involved a rumor of cutbacks in hours at the barracks. Slevinksi said the proposed cutback would involve desk hours between midnight and 5 a.m.; he has voiced concerns over the concept.

Finally, residents asked how Slevinski felt about a proposed redesign of the Riverside traffic circle that would dead-end Rt. 104. "I'd be totally against that," he said.

To call the state troopers in Riverside, dial 631-208-9002.

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