December forum called to discuss gang issues, allay concerns

Southold Town police chief Martin Flatley. (Credit: Suffolk Times File)
Southold Town police chief Martin Flatley. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Editor’s Note: The forum, originally scheduled for Dec. 4, has been changed to Dec. 11. (Read more here.)

Southold Town is hosting a community forum early next month to help allay concerns and provide information to a public nervous over gang issues within the town.

The meeting is set for Thursday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Southold Recreation Center on Peconic Lane, and comes after last month’s gang-related shooting in a residential area of Southold, during which five alleged members of MS-13 attacked two men from a rival gang with guns and a machete.

That incident has focused attention to the growing problem of gangs on the East End.

“The challenge is to allay the community’s concerns,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley. “Now that everybody’s been arrested [in the October shooting], we can let them know the status of that case and what’s transpired since then. It’s important for us to get the message out that we don’t have a gang violence problem that’s spiring out of control and going to bring down the whole North Fork. I want to make it a factual account, rather than a glorified account.”

Mr. Flatley cited the Guardian Angels crime deterrent group and its recent decision to patrol Greenport Village on Saturdays.

“They have a different perspective when they come into town, and I don’t know that they understand the scope of what goes on in Southold Town just by coming out here a few weekends,” he said.

Supervisor Scott Russell said the goals of the December meeting are two-fold.

“I think the goal here is to serve a couple purposes,” Mr. Russell said. “One, to let the community know about gang activity and what to look for. We’re also going to talk about community based action plans that could be taken.”

Chief Flatley said he’s hoping to have FBI and Suffolk County Police Department personnel on hand to field questions at the Dec. 4 forum, as well as local officers.

“The [other agencies] can give some background and history and how they’ve addressed these issues; obviously Suffolk County and Nassau County both have been dealing with gang issues a lot longer than we have, because of their sheer population,” he said, adding Suffolk police and the FBI can offer resources to the town.

He also hopes to receive input and reports from residents about their own neighborhoods.

“We don’t just want to lecture people,” he said. “We want some feedback, too.

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