HAUPPAUGE, NY — More than two dozen police agencies will now work together on Long Island to combat MS-13 and other gangs, officials said Wednesday.
The announcement was made by the district attorney in Suffolk County, which has seen more MS-13 violence than any county east of the Mississippi, but which had also gained a reputation for not cooperating with federal authorities. Timothy Sini, installed as new district attorney last month, said that he's changed the situation in a way that will focus intently on the gang problem.
"The partnership that is going to be launched among the district attorney's office, police, and federal investigators, is going to be unprecedented," Sini said.
Twenty-eight different agencies, including every police department in Suffolk County, as well as the state police and federal agencies, make up the Suffolk County Gang Unit that District Attorney Sini unveiled at the news conference.
Joining him at the announcement were the chiefs of all of the police departments, and leaders from state and federal agencies joining the task force. Also standing in support was Evelyn Rodriguez, mother of Kayla Cuevas.
Cuevas was 16 when she and her best friend Nisa Mickens were tortured and fatally beaten. The people arrested for the crimes are suspected MS-13 members.
"We owe it to Evelyn, her family, and all the other victims of gang violence, to step up our game," Sini said at the announcement.
Rodriguez declined a request by PIX11 News for a comment, but her presence endorsed the new unit, that will bring together all its member agencies for consultation every other week.
Another new development underscored the need for that.
The NYPD confirmed this week that it's looking for the killers of Oscar Blanco-Hernandez, 20. On Feb. 2, in Queens, the Elizabeth, New Jersey resident was gunned down by two men with whom he was walking. The scene was captured on surveillance video, but the two suspects have yet to be caught.
"Do we think that this might still be MS-13?" asked NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce at another news conference, on Tuesday. "Yes we do," he answered. He added that it was evident that the killers are gang members.
However, Boyce said, "we're a long way from determining which gang this was."
It's part of the reason why the new Suffolk County gang unit is key. It's set up to amass information on gangs, and to share it wherever it's needed, including with the NYPD.
"We actually were able to secure [an NYPD] sergeant to sit at police headquarters in our intelligence center," full time, Sini said. "So our relationship with the NYPD is strong."
He would not comment about specifics of the investigation into the suspected MS-13 killing of Blanco-Hernandez.