New York State Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) was joined by Assemblyman Michael J. Fitzpatrick (7th Assembly District) and Suffolk County Legislator Lynne C. Nowick (13th Legislative District) at a recent meeting with security officials regarding the security and safety of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center (KPPC). The meeting, which included Executive Director of Pilgrim Psychiatric Center Dean Weinstock, Suffolk County Police Inspector James Rhoads of the 4th Precinct and Pilgrim Psychiatric Center Safety Department Sergeant Melvin Delgado, was arranged by Senator Flanagan to discuss the ongoing issue of safety at the site.
"Having secured the successful termination of the sale of the site, there is an urgent need to maintain the security of the area. Since control of the property remains with the state, it is important that the residents know that their safety concerns are being respected," stated Senator Flanagan. "This meeting will begin the process of keeping the site safe until the future is decided so that the residents in the surrounding communities are protected."
In response to several concerns raised by Kings Park residents, Senator Flanagan sent letters to New York State OMH Commissioner Sharon Carpinello and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer requesting that a cooperative effort be established for patrolling and responding to disturbances on the site. Last week’s meeting enabled the various law enforcement communities to discuss a coordinated effort to address the security of the site.
During the meeting, Senator Flanagan announced that in response to his letters of request OMH officials had decided to provide a constant security presence at KPPC in the evening hours to deter potential criminal activities. Under the new arrangement, OMH officers will be physically stationed on the premises seven days a week between the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
After further review and input, Mr. Weinstock agreed to consider altering the Friday and Saturday night hours to discourage unlawful late night activities that seem more likely to occur on weekends. The plan also continues the current practice of OMH officers from Pilgrim Psychiatric Center routinely patrolling the property throughout the remainder of the day.
At Senator Flanagan’s request, OMH has restored street lighting along the facility’s main boulevard and renewed the Residential Community Advisory Board to ensure that any ongoing issues concerning the property are addressed in a timely manner.
All the meeting participants agreed that a key to successful security was improved communications between the two levels of law enforcement officers. Toward that end, Suffolk County Inspector Rhoads agreed to look toward improving and expediting communication between 4th precinct officers and OMH security officers.
Additionally, state and county law enforcement officials at the meeting discussed the possibility of sharing training techniques with each other, conducting joint tours of the property and streamlining procedures to maximize a police presence on the grounds of KPPC.
Senator Flanagan requested Suffolk County Police to provide increased patrolling in and around the hospital grounds because OMH security officers have limited authority under state law as designated "peace officers." While OMH officers can detain and arrest individuals, they are prohibited from carrying firearms and acting in certain instances.
Last November, KPPC was the subject of several incidents including the arrest of a former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center patient and the injury of a volunteer firefighter responding to a fire alarm. Since the bulk of the facility was closed in 1996, the property’s vacant buildings have become occasional targets of vandalism and criminal mischief.
"By including the Suffolk County Police in these discussions, we can work on a coordinated security plan for the Kings Park property that is virtually seamless," said Senator Flanagan. "The swift actions of Commissioner Richard Dormer and Inspector Rhoads is an indication of their strong commitment to serving the best interests of the Kings Park community. Their willingness to work cooperatively in protecting the security of this property will go a long way in easing the concerns of Kings Park residents."
Additional steps being taken by the Suffolk County Police Department to improve security measures on the Kings Park property include updating patrol procedures so that all police officers assigned to Kings Park are familiar with the area inside the hospital grounds, emphasizing the importance of patrolling the grounds as often as possible and sharing appropriate information between county police and OMH security officers to assist each other when necessary. This information was provided to Senator Flanagan in a letter from Commissioner Dormer in mid-January.
Officials concluded the meeting by promising to continue working together on implementing as many security improvements as possible.
"The recent good news concerning this property does not obviate the ongoing need for security and safety for the residents surrounding the hospital property. This meeting widened the channels of communication between the Suffolk County Police and the OMH officers that should yield positive results for the community," stated Assemblyman Fitzpatrick.
"I am pleased that through this cooperative approach, we will be able to deliver enhanced security at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center," said Legislator Nowick. "The increased coordination between the Suffolk County Police Department and State OMH officers should go a long way toward providing for the safety of the site and the residents of the Kings Park community."
"The coordinated efforts of all involved will greatly improve the safety of this site for all Kings Park residents. I appreciate the efforts of OMH Commissioner Sharon Carpinello and Executive Director Weinstock for listening to the concerns of the Kings Park community and taking immediate action to address this important security matter," added Senator Flanagan. "The people of Kings Park deserve to know that their safety and their rights remain a top priority in regard to this site."
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