About 60 residents turned out to the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association meeting Monday to hear Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki field questions in the wake of the shooting of a 15-year-old boy near a school.
Skrynecki briefed those in attendance on the nature of the shooting, status of the investigation, and what the brass is doing to protect against future criminal activity in the tiny hamlet.
“I wanted to inform the community that we are very on top of that investigation, that we have some good leads, but I am also looking for some community assistance in developing that investigation, so my real big thing here is that we are putting additional resources into the area,” he said following the meeting at the Crohan Community Center in Flanders.
“It certainly came to my attention that people were very concerned about this, as they should be. It’s a very serious issue to have people firing guns at 9:30 in the morning, right down the block from an elementary school,” he added.
Police were called to a neighborhood in Riverside just before 10 AM on May 9 after receiving multiple calls reporting the sounds of gunshots in the area of Brown Street and Goodrich Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Phillips Avenue Elementary School. Responding officers were unable to locate a victim, however, they were called to Peconic Bay Medical Center a short time after when a 16-year-old boy sought treatment in the emergency room for a superficial gunshot wound to his foot.
The school was placed on lockout and a town School Resource Officer responded and remained at the school as a precaution following the incident.
No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting. The investigation is continuing.
Skrynecki said the department is looking to the community help with tips.
“When it came to the scene we didn’t get people giving us much more information, which is something we need to try to improve, to try to open those avenues of communication with those residents who want to make a difference,” he said.
Skrynecki also spoke in generalities about graffiti, gangs, drug dealing and other quality-of-life issues.
He said he is trying to reach out to the neighbors who experienced the shooting last week, and also wants to reach out to the general community that he is aware of the broader issues in the area.
The department is teaming up with New York State Police in a gang task force to combat the area’s gangs, which include Bloods, Crips, MS-13, and 18th Street. He is also increasing the department’s involvement in the East End Drug Task Force, and the town’s Community Response Unit is working on initiatives to reduce prostitution.
Paola Zuniga-Tellez, the board’s liaison to the Latino community, said she has been notified that some residents do not feel comfortable calling police because there is a language barrier, and she has received complaints people have been ridiculed and made to feel bad when they call the tip line.
“When I hear from people, I am told they are not treated well, and when they ask for an interpreter, they say we don’t have one, so whenever you learn the language, call back,” she said, adding complaints include officers laughing at residents and not writing up incident reports properly because there is a misunderstanding. “They are making the report as they are seeing things not as what is really happening.”
Skrynecki said he would not stand for the mistreatment of residents and urged Tellez to call him directly if she encounters similar complaints in the future.
In the meantime, he said he has reached out the local clergy to act as a go between for residents who might not feel comfortable coming forward.
“The key here is information sharing,” he said.
Ron Fisher, who heads up the community association, said the area has had its fair share of problems over their years, noting a resident pointed out there is a violent incident almost yearly. Last year, there was 47 rounds of ammunition fired on Old Quogue Road, and in 2016, there was a drive-by shooting; in 2015, there was a machete attack. But Fisher said he is satisfied with the way the meeting went and in the department’s work to address the issues.
“This was the first time the chief came out to our community immediately after to talk about it and we are really just proud of him,” he said.
The meeting was also attended by Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera, who is the board’s liaison to the police department.
Schneiderman said he and his colleague were attending the meeting to be able to answer any questions the community may have and to make sure they are aware of all the efforts we are doing in terms of increasing patrol, and also how the case is progressing.
“It is a big issue in the community when you have a 15-year-old who got shot,” he said.