Updated: Nov 16
Outside of New York, what does the rest of America know about Long Island? The cost of living is high. The celebrities spend their summers in The Hamptons. We have bagels. We have pizza. Plenty of late-night diners. Oh yeah, Rex Heuermann and MS-13, too.
The last two have captured national headlines, and sadly, left a negative impression of what life on Long Island is like for everyday New Yorkers. One man who has had a front row seat where Rex Heuermann and MS-13 collide is Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, Jr.
Leading up to the arrest of alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer, Rex Heuermann, Sheriff Toulon was notified by arresting authorities that Rex would be processed and held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead. Pulling from his experience as a former Corrections Officer and Deputy Commissioner in the NYC Dept. of Corrections, Sheriff Toulon knew what protocols and strategies were necessary when bringing a high-profile suspect into the jail system. Whether they be mafia bosses or titans of industry, when a high-profile suspect steps into their jail cell, ensuring their safety, the safety of other inmates, and most importantly, the safety of Officers becomes a top priority.
When Sheriff Toulon joined me on The Mike LiPetri Show, he provided some insights into Rex Heuermann’s day-to-day life behind bars as he awaits trial. Since being removed from suicide watch, Rex spends his days isolated from other inmates but does participate in some jail programs and services. He visits the library, gets private yard time, and spends a lot of time with his legal team reviewing his case files.
Housing an alleged serial killer is a big deal in the jail system. It requires planning. It requires attention to detail. It requires experience. Even more so, when that same jail system is home to violent gang members, experience is needed to ensure this high-risk ecosystem is always firing on all cylinders.
Long Island has an unfortunate history with MS-13 gang violence. In 2016, the gang was responsible for the murders of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens. As a result of countless other killings and a spree of violence, law enforcement leaders vowed to work tirelessly to track down, arrest, and convict those responsible for destroying our communities.
Despite their outstanding and successful efforts, criminal gangs remain present in our communities and staying at the forefront of the latest intelligence could end up being the difference between life and death.
Last year, Sheriff Toulon visited El Salvador – the longtime homebase for MS-13 – to tour the country’s new state-of-the-art high security mega prison facility called the Terrorism Confinement Center, or CECOT, for short.
Since becoming President of El Salvador in 2019, Nayib Bukele has made it his mission to rid his country of the violence and lawless control of MS-13. To do so, despite some international pushback, law enforcement has instituted a zero-tolerance crackdown on gangs. By arresting over 70,000 alleged gang members and housing many of them in CECOT, the country’s murder rate has plummeted and for the first time in a long time, the people of El Salvador feel safe again.
Sheriff Toulon saw and heard it firsthand during his visit. He says, “the people feel safe again, the economy is thriving, and some El Salvadorians who had once fled for safety right here on Long Island have returned home.” It’s an incredible turnaround but certainly one with some unintended consequences which has raised alarms for law enforcement here at home.
With MS-13 no longer having control and a safe haven in El Salvador, those who have evaded arrest have moved out of the region to neighboring countries and have continued to make their way north to America where they often have easy passage through the southern border.
To stay abreast of the latest criminal activity and track gang movements, Sheriff Toulon has created a Corrections Intelligence Unit aimed at building a countrywide network for sharing intelligence about jailed gang members and other dangerous criminals. This level of cooperation both domestically and abroad will undoubtedly help keep Long Islanders safe for years to come.
In law enforcement, experience matters. Thankfully, we have leaders like Sheriff Toulon leading the way to ensure that when Long Island makes national headlines it’s for all the right reasons.