The Perez Public Safety Agenda:
Improving Public Safety in the Capital City
Our goal is to make Trenton an urban center of excellence in which:
• Public safety works in tandem with other departments of city government to improve the overall safety of Trenton residents.
• Police Officers become an integral part of the community through outreach, interaction, and improved understanding.
• Social service agencies become partners in efforts assisting those addicted to opioids and other substances.
• Partnerships with educational, health and social service organizations are fully formalized and integrated into the overall public safety plan.
• Training, equipment and resources are increased to support improved performance in all areas of public safety.
• Continued priority is given to outreach in recruiting local residents to serve in public safety positions.
• Focus recruitment priorities to expand diversity of the force to more closely reflect the composition of the city’s communities.
In sum, our goal is that the City of Trenton improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public safety services to promote the overall well-being of our city, through competent management, an integrated police department with a specific and improved public safety plan, and by creating partnerships with the community to combat crime and improve the lives of those that live, work, and play in the city.
OUR STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES TO REACH THIS GOAL:
Improving Professionalism within the Department
• Become nationally accredited through CALEA (The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies), a structured, rigorous examination of all aspects of police work in Trenton. The process will be a cornerstone of increasing the professionalism of our force. Accreditation will also substantially increase Trenton’s eligibility for and capacity to use federal and private foundation grants for training, staffing, and equipment.
• Improve the overall training curriculum to continually enhance the skills of officers including areas such as crime reduction, evidence collection, use of technology, community engagement, trauma-informed strategies, coordination with other agencies, etc.
• Work with Council to expand the overall number of officers to continually improve the services provided.
Increasing Diversity within the Department to more Closely Mirror the Community
• Undertake deliberate steps to help ensure that those who ensure our safety (in all capacities in our department) better reflects the racial/ethnic composition of our city.
• Create a pipeline to police enforcement positions by creating and promoting a new Advanced Placement course of study in law enforcement and security available for our city’s youth.
• Expand our Police Explorers program for younger students to provide them opportunities to understand the dimensions and potential jobs available to them in law enforcement.
Improvements in Departmental Organization and Structure
• Creating an overall public safety strategic plan that places an emphasis on placing responsibility and accountability on all officers to improve professional performance of their duties.
• Replacing those officers in administrative positions with qualified civilians and returning those replaced officers into law enforcement roles.
• Creating an overall Special Operations Bureau to group together the various specialized units under one umbrella to work towards unified goals and objectives.
• Create a Traffic Unit to target motor vehicle violations to make the city a safer place for both pedestrians and drivers.
• Promote improved communication between central administrators and officers using recognized best practices to improve the overall morale of all department members.
• Developing and implementing a Police Volunteer Corps to offer community members to receive appropriate training and be deployed to supplement police resources in ways that are appropriate, emphasize safety of both volunteers and community members, and create another link between the professional police officer force and the community.
Increased Links with Community Agencies and Community Residents
• Work with outside law enforcement agencies, including county, state, regional and federal law enforcement, and integrate them into the overall public safety plan to reduce duplication of efforts and to improve communication and better target resources.
• Increase and support department and individual officer involvement in community activities and expand outreach efforts to maintain a strong, positive image of the department within the community.
• Assist with the high schools and area colleges in creating an advanced-placement first responder’s curriculum for high school seniors.
BACKGROUND AND DETAIL:
Effective law enforcement is central to revitalizing Trenton. The city’s historic inability to control low-level crime, and consistently enforce quality of life ordinances have contributed to a loss in: population; home-ownership; new business creation; and financial investments. Strategically and consistently addressing major crime, low-level crime and quality of life issues will go a long way toward making Trenton more business, family, homeowner and investment friendly.
The layoff of more than 100 police officers and simultaneous demotion of over 50 supervisors in 2011 due to reductions in state aid remain a major obstacle in effective policing in our city. The loss and reassignment of so many personnel forced the department to change from its proactive, crime suppression stance to a department that is always reactive to the ebbs and flows of crime. While the number of departmental personnel is nowhere near its pre-layoff peak, today’s Trenton police
department currently engages 275 officers and supervisors.
Recent conversations with leadership of the department’s two unions (PBA and SOA) revealed three core concerns: lack of leadership in the department; inefficient deployment of personnel; and, inadequate equipment (vehicles, radio systems, and other material) that patrol officers need. Union leadership also expressed its membership’s desire to become active participants in fostering community relationship-building programs.
Current Trends in Crime
There are a number of crime issues facing Trenton that will be addressed in this platform. They run the gamut from the serious violent offenses to the quality of life issues that affect everyone. The following plan of action addresses these identified issues:
Violent Crime: Evidence shows that significant violent crime in Trenton derives from the illicit sale and use of narcotics. Attempts to control drug markets and instill fear in competitors causes for violence. Trenton’s gang problem is characterized by neighborhood gangs that have sprouted and flourished in the absence of these more organized groups (i.e. Bloods, Crips), making gangs harder to identify and control. In addition, easy access to weapons in Trenton fuels violence in the community. When violence does occur, it significantly strains the resources of the police department. The “new normal” of 20 to 25 murders annually in a city of about 85,000 residents is very far from normal in the rest of the nation.
Property Crime: When much of the department’s attention is focused on violent crime, property crimes (such as burglaries and thefts) increase. Most violators are drug users or juveniles who are attempting to take property that can be easily turned into cash. Although most of these offenders are known to police and have been arrested, current policies foster the release of non-violent offenders back into the community without meaningful repercussions. The reduced risk of incarceration for
certain crimes has emboldened some individuals to repeat and even elevate the scope of their offenses.
Narcotics: Significant crime in the Trenton is related directly or indirectly to the sale and use of narcotics. Gangs use violence to maintain their areas and to eliminate competition. Individuals selling drugs use the local stores and bodegas as cover. Corners are taken hostage by those selling or seeking to purchase drugs. Well-heeled buyers come from New Jersey suburbs and across the Delaware River to purchase narcotics in Trenton. Local addicts seeking money to quickly feed their habits results in increased prostitution, property crimes, and aggressive panhandling.
Juvenile Crime: Violent crime among juveniles has risen so dramatically in Trenton that the city was recently ranked fourth in the nation in rate of shootings among young people under 18 (Associated Press and USA Today Network analysis of Gun Violence data) with a staggering rate of 1.6 per 1,000 people aged 12-17 injured or killed annually.
Children in Trenton want to be given an opportunity to make the most out of their lives. They do not readily choose to become gang members or violent individuals. Some become disenchanted with life and believe there are no avenues that will lead to productive adulthood. They then become involved with those willing to exploit their disenchantment and begin to make criminal choices.
Traffic Enforcement: Without a traffic unit, the department must rely on patrol officers and the Street Crimes Unit to curb motor vehicle violations. Consequently, there is no concerted effort to regulate speed limits on the major thoroughfares of the city (Rte. 1, Rte. 29, Rte. 129, Rte. 206, Rte. 33, and Rte. 31) resulting in numerous accidents with the associated costs measured in injuries, fatalities and property damages. Drug and gun traffickers freely transport their contraband using these unregulated thoroughfares to move around the city with little fear of arrest. When violence occurs, violators use these routes, leaving the area quickly without the risk of being stopped.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement: Trenton has a large number of establishments licensed to sell liquor. These include restaurants, liquor stores, bars and night clubs. Most of the nightly complaints to police about nuisance and community peace violations (noise, street fighting, public urination, vandalism, and littering) come from residents living nearby. Patrons themselves are often victimized as robbers seeking the easy prey of intoxicated, isolated individuals and couples. Further,
some liquor-serving establishments have become havens for female human trafficking. The department currently has only a single officer assigned as the ABC enforcement official to monitor scores of establishments in the city.
Commercial Vehicles: Parking of commercial vehicles in many city neighborhoods has become a major problem. Their presence means fewer parking spaces for residents, obstruction of sightlines at intersections, and increased litter and vehicle waste on city streets. Many commercial vehicles have inadequate identification and are owned by individuals or companies that do not live or are not based in Trenton. In addition, some of these vehicles are used to conduct illegal dumping throughout the city.
Prostitution: Prostitution continues to be a major challenge for the city. The near anonymity of living in a city and the growth of substance abuse are factors that lead to prostitution as a method for obtaining the money they need to purchase illicit drugs. In particular, increasing number of young women from outside of Trenton are coming to the city to purchase drugs and engage in prostitution to pay for them.
Panhandling: Panhandlers are a common sight on major thoroughfares and intersections of the city. Highly visible, they add to the negative image of the city. The wide range of organizations and agencies offering social support programs in Trenton draws individuals, but many remain and turn to panhandling.
Downtown Open-Air Drug Market: The presence of a major bus transit exchange stop at the corner of Broad and State Streets has created an opportunity for a large group of individuals to sell drugs and other items in a highly traveled area. Their continued presence fosters fighting, threats, and other uncivil behavior.
A Responsive and Responsible Security Plan: Professionalize, Diversify, and Act Strategically
Revitalization of Trenton requires commitment on the part of City Hall to restructure and reform the critical services controlled by the administration. Nowhere is this more needed that in our police department. The Perez Administration is commitment to three core strategies to accomplish this
• Professionalize all levels of the department by seeking and achieving accreditation from The Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
• Working to ensure that departmental personnel at all levels more closely reflect the community they serve by purposefully and deliberately seeking to diversify the department through recruitment, selection, training, and advancement.
• Implementing a City Security Plan with measurable goals and objectives that directly attend to the safety and crime issues confronting Trenton today and adjusts as needs change.
Professionalization through CALEA Accreditation
A priority for this administration is the accreditation under CALEA (The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) of the Trenton Police Department. Achieving CALEA accreditation requires a rigorous, comprehensive review of every aspect of law and safety enforcement of a police department. The almost 200 standards of practice framed by CALEA shine a spotlight on all operations of the department ranging from ethics codes, communications, personnel deployment, roles and responsibilities, training, evidence collection and preservation, community involvement, and a host of
other elements that make a police department effective.
The process of achieving accreditation is NOT a pro forma exercise! It requires hard work, diligence, and competent management that ultimately will be reflect in a police department that is confident in its mission, with staff who know their responsibilities and have the professional skills as well as the administrative support to meet them. Accreditation is a process common to many institutions as a means to ensure best practices, helping to instill faith in the public and other members of the community. Among the potential benefits are reducing risk and liability exposure, stronger defense against civil lawsuits, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in the agency’s ability to operate efficiently and respond to community needs. Annual required reports provide evidence of continuing to follow accreditation standards. This process of accreditation lets the public and the political leadership know that things are being done right and build confidence in department.
The Perez Administration will charge the police director with ensuring that accreditation is achieved within the guidelines and timelines established by CALEA.
Besides achieving our goal of professionalizing the Trenton Police Department, CALEA accreditation greatly increase the department’s qualification and capacity to receive and use Homeland Security grants and other grant funding to assist in modernizing the police department. Examples of such increased funding opportunities include:
1) Replacing its aging and depleted fleet.
2) Equipping officers with specialized training and resources that include improved technology.
3) Developing an advanced law enforcement training curriculum.
4) Enhancing Crime Scene Investigations and capabilities with state-of- the-art forensic science
processes and equipment.
The Police Director will identify and appoint an Accreditation Policy Coordinator, reporting directly to the Director, to oversee the process and completion of all tasks necessary to receive accreditation.
A critical challenge for most inner-city police departments is the hiring of individuals who reflect and represent the communities they serve. In Trenton, the department has a ratio of 52 percent to 48 percent of white to non-white police officers serving a community in which minority residents constitute nearly 90 percent of the population. While these percentages are better than many departments, Trenton faces an additional challenge in that of the 48 percent non-white officers, only 15 percent are African-American and the remaining 33 percent are Latino/Latina officers.
To begin to change these percentages and to bring greater representation of African-Americans and Latinos onto the force, the Perez Administration will help create an Advanced Placement First Responders Curriculum. This curriculum will allow eligible high school seniors the opportunity to take advanced placement classes in law enforcement, emergency management systems and firefighting while receiving college credits from local colleges. In addition, the preparation for taking the officer
entrance exams will be a part of the curriculum.
In an effort to reach younger individuals and generate interest in enrolling in the Advanced Placement First Responders Curriculum, the Police Explorers’ program will be expanded and better organized. Young participants will learn the role of law enforcement in the community and receive opportunities to participate in community outreach programs as well as official police programs.
A Responsive, Strategic City Security Plan
The third component of the Perez Administration’s Public Safety Agenda is its City Security Plan which offers a plan of action for effective policing in Trenton that addresses the community’s current needs:
• A revitalization of a Patrol Unit Bureau with officers assigned to specific sections of the city in a manner that allows them to be aware and invested.
• A Criminal Investigations Bureau that will complement the front-line defense of the Patrol Units by conducting specialized investigations and targeted crime suppression interventions.
• A series of support activities designed to alleviate key challenges facing Trenton and its police department.
A Patrol Unit Strategy
At its core, the City Security Plan emphasizes clear responsibility and accountability within the department reflected in several ways:
• Officers will be expected to patrol defined areas and will be accountable and responsible for the crime that occurs in those areas.
• Officers will be responsible to know the people of their areas including local merchants, community leaders (young and old),
• Officers will also be responsible for knowing about the conditions and circumstances of their neighborhoods in which they work: the local parks and recreational centers; city housing developments; and, vacant and abandoned properties. They will be expected to identify existing and emergent trouble spots and recommend steps (improved lighting, clean-ups, fencing, etc.) to minimize them.
• Officers will conduct temporary walking posts and stationary patrols among other responsibilities in an effort to establish a community presence and deter crime.
In sum, officers will be expected to embrace their position to serve the community and to actively engage with its members. Supervision will be increased in the new Security Plan with more supervisors added to ensure the effectiveness of the security plan and assist in making the city a safer place.
Under the City Security Plan, the Patrol Unit, the most basic function of the police department, will emerge as its most important. The Patrol Bureau will return to having a pro-active mindset to ensure a safer city with adequate staffing, supervisory support, and technical resources. It will become the most visible, front-line approach for improving safety in the city. All other departments will complement its efforts. The number of officers assigned to the Patrol Bureau will be augmented. At present, there are administrative positions, staffed by officers, which can be delegated to qualified civilian personnel. By assigning these duties to civilians, more officers can be returned to patrol functions. The Patrol Unit will be substantially and directly supported by three other units in the department: The Traffic Unit, The Crime Suppression Unit, and the K9 Unit.
Traffic Unit and Crime Suppression Unit
The Traffic Unit will be responsible for the traffic enforcement of the city especially the main thoroughfares identified previously. These Officers will also conduct motor vehicle investigations involving DWI checkpoints, radar enforcement, and seatbelt and electronic device usage violations. Crime Suppression Units will be used in specific circumstances to address spikes in violence, to offset sudden increases in crimes such as robberies or burglaries and/or to monitor high crime areas. The function of the units is distinct from that of the Street Crime Unit and will not be used to roam the city to combat crime.
K9 units will be deployed throughout the Patrol Bureau. These officers will continue to provide K9 support for building searches and crowd control. In addition, they will be utilized at the rail lines to provide sniff and search operations to detect drug couriers who come into the city utilizing the trains.
Criminal Investigations Bureau
The units assigned to this Bureau are charged with follow up investigations of indictable offenses that include Homicides, Shootings, Robberies and Assaults, Specials Victims, Property Crimes, Crime Scene and the Juvenile Section.
The Homicide Unit is tasked with investigating and solving Homicide investigations. This unit is assigned as an attachment to the Mercer County Homicide Unit. This unit includes detectives from other agencies as a force multiplier in investigating and solving Homicides. This unit is based out of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. The Shooting Response Team is tasked with investigating and solving shooting of individuals. This unit belongs to another task force under the Mercer County Prosecutors banner. This unit includes Detectives from other agencies as a force multiplier in investigating and solving shooting hit investigations. This unit is based out of the Trenton Police Department.
The Robbery/Assault Unit has responsibility for investigating and solving robberies and assaults. These Detectives use all acceptable methods in investigating and solving these types of offenses. The Special Victims Unit investigates and solves sex crimes, crimes against children, missing persons reports, and the enforcement of Megan’s Law. These Detectives receive specialized training in acceptable methods for investigating and solving these types of offenses.
The Property Crimes Unit is tasked with investigating and solving burglaries, thefts, motor vehicle thefts, frauds, and other similar investigations. These Detectives utilize all acceptable methods in investigating and solving these types of offenses.
The Crime Scene Unit is a specialized unit that process and catalog crime scenes for the procurement of evidence in indictable offenses to assist in the investigations and solving of these crimes. Youth Section has responsibility for investigating and solving crimes involving juveniles. Attached to this unit are the School Resource Officers who work within city schools in enforcing school safety and in the enforcement of the law.
Special Operations Plan
The Special Operations Plan involves the grouping together of specialized units involved in pro-active policing and complex investigations of narcotics and weapons. These units will target the most violent areas and offenders and will rely on surveillance, undercover operations, and informants to perform their functions. They will also be pro-active as they aggressively target high crime areas. Their overall function is to eliminate high crime areas by executing various types of investigations targeting known street dealers and users. Members of these units will also perform the tasks of the department SWAT team. The training, equipment, vehicles and weapons will be in accordance with national standards to ensure the safety of assigned detectives as well as the public.
With the Special Operations Plan, all outside agencies will be expected to provide information of special investigations that they are conducting in the city. This information including enforcement plans for the execution of search warrants will be forwarded to the departmental leadership. Investigations will no longer be conducted in the city without the oversight and approval of the police department’s leadership to ensure coordination and proper support of those investigations.
Enhanced Training and Equipment
An advanced training curriculum will be formulated to better prepare officers for the challenges of being officers in the 21 st century. Training involving critical incident management, handling mentally disturbed individuals, trauma-informed policing, verbal judo, and other important aspects of policing will be integrated into an overall training regimen. In addition, expanded training for Detectives in the Special Operations and Criminal Investigations Bureaus including but not limited to Advanced Criminal Investigations and Interview and Interrogation, will augment the skills learned on the job and through personal experience.
This administration will invest in preparing officers with improved equipment and weapons as a means to better handle critical incidents. Research, training, and implementation of less lethal weapons will assist in performing the police functions. Improvements in the radio system, report writing and record keeping, and overall technical support will support the officers as they perform their duties. A firing range within the city’s limits will be developed to provide more comprehensive training with the assigned weapons. Having a firing range within the city provides more training capabilities while also being readily available in the event of critical incidents.
Police Volunteer Corps
The Perez Administration will create new program for adults in which qualified adults will receive training and engaged to supplement the work of the professional police department in a limited set of defined activities where their contribution relieves demands on the regular force but also achieves an important community safety and security benefit. The creation of such a corps would build another bridge between the police department and the broader community.
The Police Volunteer Corps (PVC) would comprised of adults who undergo appropriate screening, receive essential training tailored to the tasks and responsibilities they might be assigned, and are given assignments commensurate with their training, their role, and concerns for safety of themselves, other police personnel, and the broader community. Typical assignments for members of Trenton’s PVC might include: traffic control during special events or natural disasters; and monitoring or attending to security during large public gatherings (parades, political demonstrations, community
festivals). The department would carefully review the proposed assignments of PVC members to limit the risks to volunteers and others and would annually evaluate the mission and activities of the corps to ensure that it continues to meet Trenton’s needs.
Alcohol Beverage Control Enforcement
In the Perez administration, ABC enforcement will be a priority. The administration will encourage the department to enforce existing ABC laws, focusing on those establishments with a history of violations and that are major sources of community complaints. In addition, it will propose a revision of existing ordinances to modify licensing requirements for each of the different types of establishments now eligible to sell alcohol. Currently, there is only a single Detective assigned to the enforcement of Alcohol Beverage Control. This configuration has made it difficult to adequately enforce the state’s liquor laws within the large number of licensed establishments in the city. These establishments generate many quality of life violation complaints and their patrons are often targets of assault and robbery.
The Perez Community Safety plan includes having three full-time Detectives dealing with ABC. In addition, these Detectives will be assigned to the Special Operations Bureau and will have access to these units in pursuit of ABC investigations and enforcement. ABC Detectives will also be directed to investigate the illicit sale of narcotics and for human trafficking
in licensed establishments.
Commercial Vans & Truck Permit Parking
Patrol Units and Traffic Units will jointly address the issue of commercial vehicle parking using several tactics. Existing ordinances prohibiting the parking of commercial vehicles in residential neighborhoods will be vigorously enforced. Locally-owned commercial vehicles will be required to obtain parking permits granting them access to convenient Commercial Vehicle parking areas designated by the City. Commercial vehicles that are not permitted will be aggressively ticketed for violation of the permit parking ordinance. Failure to have a valid city commercial parking permit will constitute a reasonable suspicion of these vehicles when observed in known illegal dumping areas. This will subject drivers and owners to appropriate search of contents and vehicle seizure as warranted. The department will also vigorously enforce state rules governing display of business name and contact information on all commercial vehicles.
Prostitution and Panhandling
As noted above, these types of violations are primarily generated due to the illicit narcotics trade and the abundance of social services in the city. Many of these individuals come from outside of the city and engage in these acts as they use these services. These types of violations will be dealt with in a two-pronged approach:
• Aggressive enforcement of these violations with the hope of deterring this activity from taking place. Special operations targeting these violations will be conducted and those being caught will be highlighted in the media.
• Working collaboratively with social service organizations to provide appropriate, additional assistance to these individuals as they attempt to break free from their addictions. In particular, we will establish relationships with agencies to keep them informed of arrests and citations involving their clients, so they can target such support to those most in need.
Eliminating the Downtown Open-Air Drug Market
The area around the intersection of South Broad and East State Streets has become a major problem with illicit sale and use of narcotics and as a prominent eyesore in the center of the state’s capital city. Ironically, this location falls within the shadow of the city’s former City Hall. The bus exchange is in the center of downtown in front of a number of small stores and restaurants. The large number of individuals who use this exchange daily provide a natural cover camouflaging the illegal actions of the few. Further complicating the issue are the number of people visiting the social services agencies in the area including two churches offering food support as well as and the clientele of a nearby liquor store on Hanover Street. The proximity of these facilities to the bus transfer location provides a constant flow of potential clients for those looking to sell drugs. The Administration will work with NJ Transit to move the major Transit bus exchange from that corner to another convenient location selected to provide a less convenient base from which to engage in illicit activities. The first step to improve this situation, in consultation with local business owners, is to move the exchange from this area.
Second, the department will execute a concerted effort of enforcement through special operations and zero tolerance efforts to eliminate the illegal transactions in this area. Once these efforts are concluded, a downtown multi-force (including members of the department, Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and State Police) can be charged with maintaining order in this area.
Officer Health and Wellness
As Officers go through their careers, the opportunities for health and wellness become more difficult without accommodations and assistance. Not only does it affect their health, both physically and mentally, but provides ammunition to those looking to scrutinize the members of the force by pointing to overweight and out of shape officers.
Much research has been conducted and reflecting on a report titled Health, Safety, and Wellness Program Case Studies in Law Enforcement conducted through the COPS initiative by the Federal Justice Department, provides a starting point in creating a program that fits the needs of the department and its members. Accommodations must be made to ensure that those officers needing assistance are able to receive that help and are given guidance on how to ensure proper diets and
how to handle the stress factors of being police officers. The goal of this endeavor is to provide officers the opportunity to engage in physical fitness, to improve their overall health and wellness in addition to the way they look and feel.
With the reorganization of the city’s emergency management systems in 2011, the police department’s garage was merged with the Fire Department’s garage. This reorganization placed oversight of the garage under the Fire Department. This has prioritized the fire vehicles over the police vehicles leaving the department woefully short on adequate vehicles to use. Under this administration, the police department will work to have its own garage to maintain and work on the department’s fleet of vehicles. Included in that will be the hiring of licensed mechanics to maintain the fleet. This reorganization will ensure the prioritization of police vehicle maintenance.
Towing and Storage
Currently, the city has contracts with three towing and storage companies that tow and store vehicles for the city. There have been issues with standardization of costs and services. This administration will work with the three vendors on standardization of costs and services and work toward establishing its own towing and storage service.
It is the goal of this administration to have the police department become an accredited organization that is positioned to compete for grant funding, improve its operations, training, fleet, equipment, recruitment and professionalism.