Officials unveil new regional intelligence center at Newark PD

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 16, 2014

Newark police headquarters on Clinton Avenue, where a new regional intelligence center was unveiled Tuesday morning.

 

NEWARK — It happens dozens of times per day across North Jersey, and almost daily in many of the region’s large, impoverished cities.

Detectives arrive on the scene of a shooting or other violent crime, and begin canvassing the area for clues. Some are typically easy to identify: a location, name of a victim or the make, model and plate number of a vehicle.

Years ago, investigators may have had to make up to a half dozen calls to other agencies to gather the relevant background that could provide them with a suspect or other vital intelligence — a task that could often take hours. But not anymore.

This morning, law enforcement officials from around the state unveiled a brand new “Real Time Crime Center” in Newark, where officers are tasked with providing comprehensive reports in a fraction of that time, and instantly relay them to a group of 30 communities stretching from Elizabeth to Paterson and Jersey City.

“Bad guys aren’t hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. They’re not hindered by information silos. They don’t hoard information. Actually quite the opposite, they love to brag about what they do,” Newark Police Chief Anthony Campos said.

“So why were we always? You know what? We no longer are.”

The center, located on the third floor of the city’s police headquarters and Office of Emergency Management on Clinton Avenue, serves as the most visible showcase for an information sharing system known as Corr-Stat.

Introduced in early 2012, it allowed for the communities positioned along the Route 21 corridor to exchange intelligence on crimes including carjackings, shootings and armed robberies.

Much of that communication had been done through regular meetings, as well as through a Trenton-based intelligence center known as the Regional Operations Intelligence Center, which compiles reports on criminal history, known affiliates and other information for police agencies across the state.

After a sustained period of success, officials from the 30 communities in and around the Newark area — where approximately 65 percent of the state’s violent crimes and gun recoveries occur — to develop a center of their own.

“We shared it down there. Now this is just for this region,” said Anthony Ambrose, Chief of Detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Campos and Police Director Eugene Venable trumpeted the crime center as part of a wave of new crime-fighting measures last month on the heels of a bloody Thanksgiving weekend for the city, part of a stretch that saw eight people murdered in as many days.

Baraka said the intelligence hub was just the latest in area communities’ realization that their struggles to combat criminal activity are inherently intertwined.

“Usually we’re in competition with one another. And what’s been happening lately is the mayors, we’ve been saying if anything happens in Irvington, it happens in Newark. If it happens in East Orange, it happens in Newark. If it happens in Jersey City, it happens here,” Baraka said.

“We’re saying in our region is that crime in all these areas affects crime in our area.”

Col. Rick Fuentes of the State Police said that the exchange of intelligence could soon expand across the Hudson River and into New York City, where officials are already in talks about the collaboration.

“This is going to be the first time in this country that we’re looking at crime as a region,” he said.

Officials said technology at the center was compiled using equipment already possessed by the various local law enforcement agencies, some of which was acquired for last year’s Super Bowl and other major events. For now, it will be staffed with both officers and civilian employees from the Newark police, state police and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, along with a handful of state parole board workers.

While that will take some officers from those agencies off the streets for now, those who spoke at the hour-long unveiling this morning said they believed the tradeoff would be well worth it.

“Think about the power of instantaneous information. That’s what the RTCC represents,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “This is not just a model for the state, this is going to be a model for the country.”

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