County and SCPD prioritize school safety

Bay Shore juvenile arrested for threat

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On Friday, June 3, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Police Department held a press conference highlighting the ways the police department and schools are working together to keep students safe.

During the press conference, Suffolk County police commissioner Rodney Harrison announced the arrest of a 15-year-old male from the Bay Shore area for making a terroristic threat and aggravated harassment.

Suffolk County Police Department acting chief of detectives John Rowan said that the boy surrendered Friday morning at the Second Precinct and was transported to Family Court.

Rowan said that in the late afternoon of May 31, a student at Commack Middle School observed a social media posting on Facebook Live, which in sum and substance said, “I’m going to remake Texas at CMS.” The student notified her mother, who notified the school’s principal. The principal called 911 and an investigation was immediately underway.

The 15-year-old who made the threat does not go to Commack Middle School. A search was done at the home of the juvenile with the cooperation of the defense attorney and the family. The student had no access to weapons in the home.

Rowan noted that since May 24, the day of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, SCPD has had 16 reported threats against schools. There have been two arrests made: the juvenile from Bay Shore and one made in Bellport last week. The other reported threats have been determined to be non-criminal in nature or other factors where it did not rise to the level of criminality.

Rowan said it’s important for students and parents to know that any and all threats will be taken seriously.

“Actions have consequences, and these cases will be investigated and they will be prosecuted,” Rowan said. “I think what we’re seeing in a lot of these is that the students themselves are doing this on social media with no real intent to commit a crime or the ability to carry through on them.”

The press conference also covered the measures in place to help assist law enforcement and schools, should an emergency situation arise.

“Over the past few years, we’ve implemented various safety initiatives to help keep our children, teachers, administrators and staff safe while at school,” Bellone said. “We’ve also given our law enforcement officers and first responders the tools that they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible, because we know that response time matters. It is critical, and in many cases can be the difference between life and death.”

Back in 2018, the county rolled out the RAVE panic button mobile app. The mobile application quickly alerts law enforcement and first responders of an active shooter situation or an emergency that may be occurring. Bellone also noted that the app is able to communicate details to faculty, staff, and school resource officers who are on the premises.

Since the rollout of the Safe Suffolk initiative, which included the RAVE panic button mobile app, 52 school districts in the county, including Western and Eastern Suffolk BOCES, have signed on. In addition, 17 private school facilities have registered for the program. Bellone said he encourages all public and private schools to register for the program, which is free of cost.

In 2019, S.H.A.R.E. was announced by the county. S.H.A.R.E. stands for “sharing to help access remote entry.”

“S.H.A.R.E. works by connecting a school district’s existing closed-circuit T.V. camera systems directly to the Suffolk County Police Department’s real-time crime center,” Bellone said. “This connection provides law enforcement the enhanced capabilities to respond to any kind of security risk. Through the S.H.A.R.E. program, the police department has eyes inside the school when a threat occurs and can determine exactly where to go. Thanks to S.H.A.R.E., when an emergency arises, officials at police headquarters can access the cameras and in turn relay the information or the video directly to the responding officers.”

Currently, 31 public schools are signed up for the S.H.A.R.E. program, with 18 of those districts fully integrated into the real-time crime center. Bellone said they’re currently working with the other 13 districts to complete their integration into the police department’s system. Harrison noted that the S.H.A.R.E. program is not a continuous watching within the schools, but rather an activation of a call for the police to respond if there is an imminent threat or danger.

Bellone also noted that some of the recent mass shootings have transpired in places other than schools. He said the security technology from the county isn’t only limited to schools but also available to supermarkets and big-box stores.

“These two initiatives, RAVE and S.H.A.R.E., are in addition to SCPD’s enhanced patrols around school buildings all across the county, the active shooter training for officers, and the school safety presentations that we do,” Bellone said.

So far, in 2022, Suffolk County has provided two active shooter presentations at schools, 16 school lockdown drills, six presentations at churches, and 14 active shooter vulnerability assessments at businesses. Since the tragedies in Texas and in Buffalo, multiple schools have elected to join the S.H.A.R.E. program.

Harrison noted that the department is going to start doing mobilization drills and tabletop exercises at least once a month to make sure that they are prepared to respond at a moment’s notice. On Saturday, June 4, a mobilization drill was held at Greenport High School.

Anyone who would like to access the presentations or trainings from SCPD is asked to call the Homeland Security Section at 631-852-6695.