Federal agents were assisting police as they searched for human remains in a close-knit community on Long Island following a tip to Homeland Security, authorities say.
The tip from a person of interest led investigators to a large wooded area with a large lake in Roosevelt, although a search is being conducted at a couple locations, police said.
On Thursday morning, police were scouring an area of overgrown, tough terrain at the end of a dead-end street in Roosevelt that had been blocked off by crime scene tape. A neighbor said he saw investigators in the woods the night before.
The search was still ongoing by Thursday evening, when Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder gave a press conference.
"At this time, we have not found or identified any human remains," Ryder said, adding that the woods is 27 acres and it will take investigators a couple of days to finish their search.
Olayinka Phillips, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years, says he has noticed unfamiliar people lately near the woods.
"I see people like walking, parking here. Walking in there. And I'm like, 'Well, I don't know where they're going,'" Phillips said. "You see, it's a closed neighborhood — you don't come back here unless you kind of live here or you know somebody."
Commissioner Ryder said he can't confirm the nature of the crime being investigated.
"This is just another tip that we received. It's a little bit more detailed, so that's why we're putting as much resources as you see behind us," he said.
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The Long Island Gang Task Force was at the scene Thursday, and with a rash of recent MS-13 killings in the area, some residents believe the gang has something to do with it.
A year ago, Lilian Oliva's son went missing in the exact area. She told NBC 4 she believes MS-13 was behind his disappearance. And she thinks the body police were looking for Thursday is that of her son.
The deaths of more than 20 people, mostly teenagers, in Nassau and Suffolk counties by alleged MS-13 gang members have drawn the attention of federal authorities, and even President Trump.
Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled an initiative to combat gang violence at 10 high-risk schools on Long Island.