Spring Sector Spotlight: Riverhead Police Department

05/08/2020

Riverhead Police Department is the focus of Spring’s Sector Spotlight. The department serves the Town of Riverhead, protecting over 33,000 residents and covering 67 square miles. This law enforcement sector is committed to preventing and reducing youth substance use. It is one of twelve coalition sectors and has partnered with Riverhead CAP and Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth (RCC) since each was established.

Chief David Hegermiller serves as Vice-President of Riverhead CAP’s board of directors. He is also the coalition’s law enforcement sector representative. He is the key contact for coalition and law enforcement collaboration and engagement. As a result of this partnership, the coalition has successfully created sustainable reductions in prescription drug and alcohol use among Riverhead Central School District (RCSD) students.

Reducing Youth Prescription Drug Use

Since Riverhead PD began partnering with the coalition, there has been a significant reduction in access to prescription drugs and 30-day prescription narcotic use among local youth. In 2014 Chief Hegermiller helped develop a safe and effective method for community members to dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medication. This resulted in the community’s first Medication Drop Box. The Drop Box is available to community members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is located in the lobby of the Riverhead Police Department. The coalition also works with the Community Orientated Policing Enforcement (COPE) unit to host at least five Medication Take Back events each year. These initiatives have resulted in the safe disposal of 8,000 pounds of medication.

Reducing Youth Alcohol Use

Riverhead Police Department has played a key role in reducing access to alcohol and 30-day alcohol use among Riverhead youth. The department partnered with the coalition and the Town of Riverhead to establish the town’s first comprehensive alcohol policy for public events. Riverhead PD conducts quarterly alcohol compliance checks to reduce youth access to alcohol from retail outlets and restaurants. They also partner with the Riverhead Youth Coalition to conduct Project Sticker Shock. This campaign raises awareness about the dangers of providing alcohol to minors.

Each year Riverhead PD collaborates with the coalition, RCSD, PBMC – Northwell Health, and local businesses to reduce youth alcohol use during prom and graduation season through a mandatory Pre-Prom Meeting & Expo event. Sergeant Jonathan Devereaux and Officer Byron Perez present the program in English and Spanish to all high school seniors, parents and guardians. They discuss the consequences of underage drinking and the Social Host law.

Life Skills Training (LST) Program at Pulaski Street School

Riverhead PD partners with CAP to provide the evidence-based Life Skills Training (LST) program. All students at Pulaski Street Elementary School receive the program. Riverhead JAB Youth Counselor Beth Maccagli assists by providing weekly training to over thirty-five eighth grade peer leaders annually. Peer leaders, together with adult volunteers, deliver the monthly program to all students at Pulaski Street School. Since 2015 Officer Perez has volunteered for this program by teaching lessons in Spanish to fifth grade students who are new to this country. In 2016 he was the honored guest and keynote speaker at the 31st Annual Say NO to Drugs March. Many Riverhead officers also serve as guest speakers in classrooms during this annual event. They discuss the importance of making healthy decisions and avoiding substance use with students prior to marching.

Recognition for Positive Outcomes

Through partnerships with Riverhead PD, the coalition has received national recognition for its successful outcomes. In 2019 the coalition was named Coalition of the Year by CADCA, the nation’s leading substance abuse prevention organization. Specifically, the award was for demonstrating long-term outcomes. This was the coalition’s third consecutive Coalition of Excellence Award. Previous awards include short-term outcomes in 2017 and intermediate outcomes in 2018. In 2016 CAP and Riverhead PD were honored at MADD’s 10th Annual NY Metro Law Enforcement Recognition Awards. The awards were for outstanding dedication to DWI enforcement and education. In addition, three key department staff have been recognized as coalition Members of the Month: Chief David Hegermiller, Officer Richard Anderson, and JAB Youth Counselor Beth Maccagli.

Keeping Our Community Safe During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Riverhead Police Department continues to keep our community safe. They collaborate with the Town of Riverhead to provide the “Senior Assistance for Essentials” (SAFE) program. It ensures that Riverhead seniors and veterans are able to obtain essentials they need without exposure to the virus.

Riverhead PD also assisted with opening a free coronavirus testing facility at the County Center. Officers communicate with the public and distribute flyers in English and Spanish to raise awareness about access to testing. They also partner with the Gas Monkey Foundation to provide energy drinks to COVID-19 first responders and healthcare workers within the community. Finally, Riverhead officers are providing support for Riverhead youth during COVID-19 through a short video they created. You can watch the video here.