County legislator proposes bill to increase policing at houses of worship

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Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker announces a bill on Thursday that would require police to concentrate resources to prioritize the protection of houses of worship, religious institutions and dangerous stretches of roadway.

In response to scores of bomb threats at JCC’s nationwide and a series of bias incidents in Nassau, County Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) proposed a bill on Thursday that would require police to concentrate resources to prioritize the protection of houses of worship, religious institutions and dangerous stretches of roadway.

“Fighting hatred and keeping Nassau citizens safe are my main concern,” he said. “Alleviating fear and protecting the community against heinous acts of intolerance should be a top priority.”

“I’m not seeking additional funding,” he added. “Hopefully this legislation will allow police to reallocate deployment of resources so they will have a more consistent presence.”

Nassau police increased the frequency and duration of their patrolling at Jewish institutions during the religion’s high holy days in December, and intensified their policing further after bomb threats leveled at two JCC’s in Nassau earlier this year.

“This arbitrary legislation is nothing more than a partisan attempt to politicize the horrible tragedies that have occurred in houses of worship,” Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said. “It ignores the fact that Republicans have been able to bring crime down in Nassau County by over 27 percent since winning the majority.”

The Police Duties bill, which has the support of all seven Democratic county legislators, “changes the statutorily defined duties of the Nassau County police department so they are obligated to step up monitoring of houses of worship and religious institutions throughout the county and not just on high holy days,” Drucker said.

The bill also ensures increased policing at “accident ‘hot spots’ where the frequency of serious traffic accidents involving injury or death is especially high,” the bill said.

One such location, the intersection of Roslyn Road and Locust Lane, became a central concern for Drucker’s predecessor, Judy Jacobs, in 2014 after two fatal accidents occurred on the road within a month of each other.

Drucker said the additional monitoring will consist of more frequent patrols and, he hopes, regular visits by police officers to religious institutions.

“At minimum more patrol cars,” he said. “And if they’re patrolling it doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to walk into the facilities.”

Surinder Singh Chawla, a member of the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center, in Plainview, said the bill will strengthen security for those in his congregation.

“We get people passing by who comment to us ‘go back to your country,’ ‘what are you doing here,’ or they call our turban a ‘headband,’” he said. “This will help.”

Drucker said the bill came about after a recent meeting he held with Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpeter, during which Krumpeter said crime data determines where police are deployed and expressed confidence such an approach can prevent incidents of bias and discrimination.

“I disagree,” Drucker said. “Data can’t drive everything. We need to be proactive rather than reactive, especially in these unsettling times.”

Neil Tow, a Rabbi at the Woodbury Jewish Center, said he is satisfied with the level of policing at his congregation and supports the bill because it will ensure such patrols can continue.

“I’m pleased the police will have the support and structure to continue to do that for us and others,” he said. “So we can continue to feel safe and secure.”

 Gonsalves will determine whether the bill receives a public hearing and, eventually, a vote.

An attempt to reach Nassau County Police for comment was unavailing. 

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