Public meeting addresses growth of gangs in Central Islip

CENTRAL ISLIP -

Community leaders and authorities hosted more than 600 Central Islip residents at a public forum to discuss the growth of gangs in their neighborhoods.

The meeting, at the local Knights of Columbus hall, came after four young men were found beaten to death and mutilated in a Central Islip park. Police say the MS-13 gang is likely responsible for the slayings.

"We want to make the community a safe place for our children to grow up in," said Debra Cavanaugh, the president of the Central Islip Coalition.

The coalition teamed up with the Central Islip Civic Council to provide a public forum for people to voice their concerns.

Velene Gallagher, the executive director of the Central Islip Civic Council, said she felt it was important for elected officials, police and the community to meet in light of what happened.

"We wanted them to come in here, have questions answered and be at ease and feel safe and know that there's going to be something done for this community," Gallagher said.

Several elected officials including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) were in attendance. 

"I've been in contact with the Department of Homeland Security, with the FBI, and they assured me they are giving full cooperation with the (Nassau police) commissioner," King said.

Cameras were not allowed inside the meeting, but Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said his department, with the help of state police, will be increasing patrols in Central Islip and all communities where investigators believe members of the MS-13 gang may be active. He said the long-term goal is to eradicate the gang.

The meeting followed the wake for 16-year-old Justin Llivicura, the youngest victim of the park killings. Llivacura was a Bellport High School student from a devoutly Catholic Ecuadorian family, according to the pastor at his parish.

A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to arrests. Authorities are urging anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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