The 5th Precinct is one of 7 precincts in Suffolk County and spans from Oakdale to Bellport. There are 160 police officers plus supervisors and detectives who serve under Commanding Officer, William Silva. Add to that, the civilian employees, clerical staff and prison detention staff and there are almost 250 people who work for the 5th precinct. The officers, are on patrol covering this entire territory 24/7, 365 days a year. They answer every call for help and assistance within minutes, patrol neighborhoods to ensure safety, and provide a positive presence by getting to know the people in the neighborhoods they serve. It is hard to imagine being everywhere, yet random interviews with people on the streets in Patchogue told us just that – “we always feel safe because the police are everywhere” said one young man as he was walking out of a restaurant with his friends.

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It’s called ‘saturation policing’. Each officer is in a single car during their shift except during a 2 hour overlap when they are going off duty. There are 2 types of shifts, one is called the ‘Two Tour’ where you work 7am – 3pm one week and from 3pm – 11pm the following week, alternating weeks, nights and days. Three squads do those shifts. Then you have the ‘Midnight Tour” where they work 10 hours from 9pm – 7am, 4 days on and 4 days off. Two squads do that shift. And that is how they can manage their territory and “be everywhere” without missing a beat – 24 hours, 365 days a year. We spoke with police officer Lou Civello who has been on the job with the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) since 2001. He told us that he grew up in a “police family” and always wanted to become a cop. He started his career in New York City and remembers hearing about the Suffolk Police Academy. Suffolk had a reputation (and still does) as one of the best, toughest and most challenging Academy’s in the country. The physical demands and training, combined with the most competitive written tests ensure that Suffolk County cops meet the highest standards of policing in the country. After 18 months with NYPD Officer Civello was accepted to the Suffolk County Police Academy in June of 2001 and graduated in November 2001. He told us how proud he is of SCPD’s reputation across the country and added “we strive to live up to that reputation, each and every day.” He feels fortunate to work and live on Long Island and believes in paying it forward, as do many of his fellow officers.

Civello serves as a Trustee of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA). He feels obliged and honored to look after and advocate for the overall well-being of the 160 officers in the 5th precinct. He is also an active member of their fraternal organization, The 5th Alliance. Throughout the year, The Alliance puts on events that raise money for charitable organizations in the community. “Helping the underserved communities in the areas we serve is very important to us,” says Civello. “We see the struggle and we know that people are working hard, trying to provide a good life for their families. We want to help people enjoy some of the things that most of us take for granted. Simple things, such as having a Christmas tree. During the holiday season, we give away free Christmas trees and gift cards to families who we know cannot afford to buy one.” Civello recalled that after the event was over last year, they had extra gift cards so they decided to drive through the neighborhood and pulled over several cars. To the drivers elated surprise, they were presented with a gift card, not a ticket!

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The officers in the 5th precinct strive to foster relationships with the people in the communities they serve. They feel especially connected to Patchogue because they are headquartered downtown, they have witnessed and been part of the incredible transformation. Once a blighted area, Patchogue has undergone a much-needed renovation, and not without growing pains and new challenges. Mayor Paul Pontieri told us that the 5th Precinct was an integral part of the vision, the plan and the successful revitalization of the downtown. “Something this big and life changing can only happen by collaborating with all the stakeholders. We had great partners, including the dedicated police officers of the 5th precinct” said Mayor Pontieri. They are intimately involved in the growth and challenges of all the downtowns under their jurisdiction, including Sayville and Bellport. The police officers who patrol these areas, become part of the fabric of the neighborhood. Most recently, the Police Commissioner and Elected Officials honored Police Officer Joel Reines in Sayville, his neighborhood beat for 38 years. “It was the outpouring of gratitude from the residents that meant the most,” said Reines. Our police officers do a great job to keep us safe and secure although our region faces dangerous challenges from gang violence and drugs. The Suffolk County Police Department is making tremendous headway, working with our state and federal law enforcement partners to eradicate MS-13 and other violent criminal gangs. The PBA continues to make every effort to facilitate the department’s missions and Civello tells us that their work will never be done until everyone can feel safe that there are no violent gangs on Long Island, once and for all. He feels very optimistic and proud of his fellow officers with good reason. The proactive work of cops on the street, recently prevented a murder from taking place.

“There will be many more interventions like this one” Civello assures us. And yet another tragic issue still exists “the many young lives lost due to the drug epidemic is real and heart breaking. The first time I saw a kid with a needle in his arm I was shocked. You can never grow numb to this kind of senseless tragedy. And although we are armed with Narcan and have saved many lives, I fear that it is breeding a sense of taking it to the edge. We will continue to intervene in every way possible, giving these kids a second chance at life” says Civello.

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Of course, the best remedy is and will always be, prevention. And the Suffolk County Police Department is committed to employing every measure possible PREVENT drug use. They spend quality time in the community, and visit school districts (primary, middle and high schools) to educate kids about the dangers of drug use. They present at PTA and General Assembly meetings to educate parents and grandparents, and give away free drug testing kits. “We are always looking for new ways to connect with the people who live and work in our precinct” says Civello. “We are on the job to do good, to help improve the quality of life for every resident in Suffolk County. Our Commanding Officer, Bill Silva has created and enforced a culture of community,  we are here to serve our residents” says Civello. Inspector Silva has worked in every precinct in Suffolk County and feels so grateful to call the 5th precinct home. Aside from the responsibility and prestige that comes with being the Commanding Officer, he has been able to help affect positive change, largely due to the culture he has created within the precinct and the communities they serve. Inspector Silva cannot contain his enthusiasm talking about the 5th precinct and the work they are doing to create a culture of communication and trust. “We are listening to the people” he said “and trying to resolve the issues or concerns they bring to us. My policy with my officers and the community is simple – this is your home. There is an open door and everyone who enters here is our guest. We treat our home with respect and expect our guests to as well.”  At the 5th precinct, they walk the talk. The officers of the 5th precinct spent their day off to do all the landscaping around their headquarters in Patchogue. “We do this to instill pride in this place we call home and to be a role model to people in the community. Prisoners come in the back door, everyone else comes in the front door and is treated with respect and dignity.” There has been a lot of miscommunication or not enough communication and the officers of the 5th precinct are working hard to bridge the gap that exists between people and the police. They are responsible for two townships, (Islip and Brookhaven,) two incorporated village’s (Patchogue and Bellport) and 17 hamlets. “We have very close relationships with Mayors of both villages and have established partnerships with several key organizations such as the BHEP Alliance (Bellport Hagerman East Patchogue Alliance)” says Sliva. The Executive Director of BHEP, Fred Combs told us that they have never had a better relationship with the 5th precinct and “it is making a world of difference. We have seen change” he told us. The BHEP own 48 homes in Bellport and East Patchogue and work with seniors and felons, to help find employment and housing. Fred Combs continued “there has always been a disconnect between the community and law enforcement and that is changing because Silva shows up, he listens and he follows through. Complaints are dealt with immediately and therefore, people are responding. People realize that the police need our help as much as we need theirs and the communication and trust is happening. BHEP serves as a liaison for information that often leads to drug busts and arrests. We have a great partnership and it is helping to make our communities happier and safer”.

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Inspector Silva and his officers regularly meet with the communities they serve. They also forged a great relationship with another large organization that represents the Hispanic Ecuadorian population and meet with them regularly. Silva tells us that “many people in our community are undocumented and I don’t want them to be afraid. If they witness a crime or need help, we want them to come to us, we want to help them. The immigration fears are affecting my community, and we meet with them to convey the facts and let them know that their fears are not justified.” Last Saturday Silva attended a meeting at a resident’s home. There were 35 people there who shared their true concerns and fears. St. Francis De Sales Outreach will be holding a series of small meetings and continue to build trust and an open dialog. The goal is to hold a larger meeting after a church service where 300 people will be in attendance. This is progress. This is the 5th Precinct. Lizbeth Carrillo, the Outreach Director of St. Francis De Sales, told us that they have also embarked on producing videos with Inspector Silva and the officers who address specific topics of safety and concern such as gang violence and drugs. They translate it into Spanish to be shown at local meetings. Lizbeth said that this has helped to foster better relationships with the Hispanic community. Finally, Lizbeth said “if all of our leaders were like Inspector Silva and Mayor Paul Pontieri –wow! Long Island would be amazing. They are amazing and with leaders who we can trust, everything is so much better.” There is no doubt that being a police officer is Silva’s passion, life purpose and family legacy. His wife was a police officer, and so was her father and uncle. “And my daughter is in the academy now!” he says with a proud smile.n“She was assigned shield #6870 however she can take shield #199 which was her grandfathers but decided to take her mother’s shield, #3978.” Inspector Silva concluded by saying that his daughter inherited the calling. “It’s definitely a calling, it’s not a job. It really doesn’t matter how much you earn. Being of service and helping people is the greatest privilege and reward. There is no better job, I feel grateful and gratified every single day.”

The 5th precinct and every precinct across the county encourages you to have a safe and joyful spring and summer. Officer Lou Civello concludes our interview. “Our job is to stop anyone who is a threat to your safety and inhibits your ability to feel safe and have fun. There is so much good, and it’s wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying the warmer weather, spending time outside in parks, villages and downtowns. We hope to see you soon.”