Atlantic City law enforcement officers stepping up boardwalk security www.privateofficer.com
ATLANTIC CITY NJMarch 20 2012 — Atlantic City law enforcement officers have a new message for criminals on the prowl: Smile, you’re on camera.
Increased video surveillance is one of the top priorities of Gov. Chris Christie’s “Clean & Safe” initiative, a multi-agency law enforcement effort to tackle Atlantic City’s crime problem. Other major plans include installing new light posts to better illuminate the Boardwalk and boosting the Atlantic City Police Department’s foot patrol presence in the tourism district by hiring 25 additional officers.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, backed by local top brass, unveiled the progress today at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
“Through unprecedented teamwork involving the Atlantic City Police Department, the casinos and other public and private partners represented here today, we are producing results you can see and feel,” Chiesa said. “Our efforts to increase police presence, promote security using technology and address quality of life issues in Atlantic City are producing a welcoming environment where safety is the watchword.”
When it comes to technology, Chiesa said the goal is to establish a well-connected video surveillance and communication systems for police, typically called a command center.
“Law enforcement has found that cutting edge technology can be a force multiplier,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies continue to gather access to as much video surveillance as they can, taking a proactive approach rather than scrambling in the aftermath of a crime to find out where video cameras might have caught a perpetrator, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said.
So far, Housel’s office and the Atlantic City Police Department have mapped more than 450 privately-owned surveillance systems, and the Division of Gaming Enforcement has done an audit of the TV systems available on casino properties.
“This level of cooperation that we’re experiencing now in Atlantic City, as far as law enforcement is concerned, is unprecedented,” Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said.
Additionally, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has set aside $3.5 million for technological advancements. A technology system called Mutualink has been put into place to allow law enforcement agencies to share videos and information with the casinos.
In 2010, Gov. Christie announced the state-run Casino Reinvestment Development Authority would be tasked with overhauling the city’s troubled gambling and entertainment district.
Cleaning up Atlantic City is no easy task. The city has been plagued by high-profile violent crimes, including a fatal carjacking at the Trump Taj Mahal parking garage last fall and four unsolved prostitute killings in 2006, believed to be the work of a serial killer.
There were nearly 900 violent crimes here in 2010, including murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. The violent crime rate, at 20.7 crimes per 1,000 people, ranks as the third highest in the state, behind Camden and Asbury Park, according to an analysis of Uniform Crime Report Data provided by the New Jersey State Police.
Part of the “Clean & Safe” initiative is the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force, which is made up of officers from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, the State Police Street Gangs Unit, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Atlantic City Police Department and Sheriff’s Office and the State Parole Board.
Tom Gilbert, a former State Police lieutenant colonel, is the commander of the tourism district. He’s a strong believer in the broken windows theory, which he referenced during a slideshow presentation today.
According to the theory, which was first proposed in a 1982 article in the Atlantic Monthly, substantial changes in crime rates can occur by eliminating seemingly minor problems, such as broken windows, graffiti and trash. The idea is that petty crimes foster a culture of criminals.
“An awful lot of good work has really gone into trying to get at the little things before they become big things,” Gilbert said. “And that means cleaning things up. It means knocking buildings down. It means when there’s trash somewhere, we go and we get to it quickly and we mitigate it.”
That concept is behind the extensive renovations to the Boardwalk’s lighting system, paid for with $5 million in funding from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. This month, the first $2.5 million phase of the renovation project will be completed, with 244 lights having been installed on the Boardwalk from Albany Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue.
The 25 new law enforcement officers will start work with the police department on July 1, with a goal of increasing foot patrol in the tourism district. The Class II officers, who can carry guns and make arrests, are paid contractually and typically used on a seasonal basis in shore towns.
Gilbert said it hasn’t been decided if the officers will be sticking after the tourism season.
“It depends on what the work load looks like and what the need is,” he said.