Newark police tout progress in 45-Day plan to improve service

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on April 20, 2016

 

NEWARK —  A recent plan to reduce crime and improve services provided by city police has yielded positive results, according to department officials.

Announced in February, the 45-day plan called for the consolidation of some department administrative positions to free up more officers for street duty, as well as an assessment of officer response times and the department's internal affairs unit.

In the weeks since, 50 officers were reassigned to patrol and street functions from administrative positions, while another 36 rookie officers were added and placed on foot patrols after completing their police training in March, officials said.

New protocols and a staffing increase helped reduce the number of calls for service transferred to the Jersey City Police Department from an average 325 calls per week to less than 20.

Department officials also increased the number of detectives in the Major Crimes Unit to 24. As a result, clearance rates of investigations handled by the unit increased to 63 percent by the end of March, a 39 percent increase from where the total stood at the close of the final quarter of 2015, officials said.

Acting Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said Tuesday that the moves are just an initial step in improving services for residents.

"The problems the department especially around response times are well documented, but we're making progress," he said. "People deserve to know that when they call that there's going to be someone who answers the phone. Is the problem totally fixed? No, but we're going to continue to work with the community to become a more efficient department."

To help gauge the department's progress, city officials commissioned a Rutgers University survey asking residents to rate service provided by police.

Department officials acknowledge that the results were mixed. A majority of respondents included in the survey said they police officers they'd interacted with had a positive demeanor. But over half of the respondents in the survey described wait times at local police precincts as "excessive," and only 41 percent said they'd received followed-up calls after making an initial report to police. 

In the coming weeks, department officials will roll out yet another plan, which will include new initiatives designed to improve police training and oversight, as dictated by the consent agreement authorizing federal oversight of the police department, said Mayor Ras Baraka.

"After this 90 day plan, there will be another, yet another and another until the Newark Police Department becomes a national model for effective law enforcement and a close citizen/police relationship," he said. 

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