Tue, 23 Nov 2004

A GANG CZAR FOR NASSAU Inspector tabbed as busts rise - Daily News

A GANG CZAR FOR NASSAU Inspector tabbed as busts rise

LAURA WILLIAMS DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER. New York Daily News. New York, N.Y.: Nov 23, 2004.

Copyright Daily News, L.P. Nov 23,

2004 CRIME RATES MAY BE falling but gang violence has emerged as a thorny, headline-grabbing problem for police and politicians in Nassau County.There’s no shortage of groups committed to uprooting gangs and their attraction for young people, said Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. The challenge, he contends, is getting them all to work together.To coordinate the hundreds of disparate anti-gang efforts - by schools, nonprofits, churches and government agencies - Suozzi yesterday appointed Nassau Police Inspector Robert Turk as the county’s first "gang czar.""The non-law enforcement community is not as organized as the law enforcement community," the county executive said. "They’re not coordinating enough with each other or with law enforcement."Turk, a 31-year police veteran, conceded he has "a formidable task" ahead of him."Can we completely eradicate the problem? I’m not naive. I’m not going to say we can do that completely," Turk said.Crime in the county is down 10% from this time last year, Suozzi said. Gang incidents are down 36%, while gang arrests are up more than 9%, he added."The crime rate is the lowest it has been in 30 years," said Suozzi, who was joined at the announcement by a bevy of elected officials, community activists, police brass and school officials. "But we know there is a very serious problem with gangs. We’re losing a whole generation of young people."Two high-profile cases - the dumping of two gang members’ bodies in residential areas in September, and the fatal stabbing of a 17- year-old Hempstead boy last week - have heightened anxieties in recent months.Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said that working with schools is a crucial element in any anti-gang strategy."You really have to start in grade school," McCarthy said. "These are bad gangs. Gangs with guns, gangs that deal drugs. . . . And there are still some schools that deny gangs exist."McCarthy - who was in the same room with her former opponent, Hempstead Mayor James Garner, for the first time since she won reelection on Nov. 2 - also announced she has secured $500,000 in federal funds for anti-gang initiatives throughout the county.But, she added, federal cuts in community policing and after- school programs will make Turk’s task tougher.
Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who represents some of the county’s conflicted neighborhoods - such as Roosevelt - said he wants to see more done to prepare young people for legitimate jobs."I hear from former gang members that they need help to get back into society," Abrahams said. "We need to help these kids with job training."

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