East Williston committee eyes security alert system

The Village of East Williston’s Security Committee is exploring a village-wide alert system to keep residents better informed of potential security threats.

The “Security Alert System” would take in reports of crimes or suspicious incidents from residents and disseminate them through  email to residents who join the system, said Walter Rivera, a member of the committee. The group will also explore the possibility of sending alerts in text messages, he said.

This idea is in its early stages, but it is one way to improve communication, the committee’s first priority after several burglaries and other crimes earlier this year, said Caroline DeBenedittis, the committee chairwoman and a former village trustee.

“The program [is] designed to promote the exchange of information that’s critical to the success of protecting our village residents,” Rivera said at a committee meeting Tuesday night.

The village Board of Trustees established the committee in August to explore additional security measures the village could take. Its board-appointed members — DeBenedittis, Rivera and Rita Bottenstein — emphasized that it only advises trustees and has no decision-making power.

The new alert system could supplement the village’s existing email blasts, which distribute announcements and information to residents, DeBenedittis said. The village can also currently make automated phone calls to all residents in case of a serious emergency, she said.

The committee still has to evaluate whether the village has the ability to send such alerts or if it would need to contract with a company to create the system, DeBenedittis said. It must also answer questions  about its legality and who would monitor it, committee members said.

Several of the 14 residents at Tuesday’s meeting said they favored the idea.

Nicole Russo, one of a group of residents who have pressed the village for better security communication, said the system would also complement the Facebook groups residents use to keep each other informed.

“We know Facebook is not getting to my elderly neighbor who’s next door to me,” Russo said.

Robert Blenderman, a resident, said a text-message alert system would be ideal because it would reach people more quickly. The committee said it would look into that possibility.

“We live off our phones, and sometimes emails, it just gets lost in the mix,” Blenderman said.

The committee plans to meet with residents once a month to collect their security ideas and then share them with the Board of Trustees, DeBenedittis said. It has asked for a spot on the agenda for the board’s monthly meetings to update residents on its efforts, committee members said.

Only a handful of residents came to recent information sessions with Nassau County police officers, DeBenedittis said. Several residents at the meeting said they were unaware of the sessions and said the village should better advertise future events.

“We’re hoping that the communication gets better,” DeBenedittis said.

The village plans to install security cameras at Devlin Field, a park where graffiti and other vandalism have been reported. A private security officer has also patrolled the village for almost a year.

By Noah Manskar

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