Atlantic City Officials Announce New Safety Initiatives
The revitalization of Atlantic City continues as New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa along with city and state officials announce new initiatives that will create what they hope is a safer tourism district.
The partnership, which is part of Governor Christie’s “Clean & Safe” initiative, will involve law enforcement from the state, county, and local levels, along casino officials; all launching more aggressive crime prevention measures and increasing “quality of life” issues.
At Monday’s meeting in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, Chiesa spoke along with Atlantic City Police
Chief Ernest Jubilee, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel, CRDA executive director John Palmieri, and Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert.
Chiesa stressed the importance of being proactive rather than reactive whenever possible. Launching a more comprehensive public safety initiative, Chiesa announced a slew of police partnerships that will not only include traditional personnel improvements but also technological increases.
The backbone of the entire initiative will be a “boots on the ground” based initiative which would assign more foot and bike patrol police officers to create a presence within the city. Additionally casino security would receive training from police and the CRDA would place sixty Ambassadors throughout the district to not only assist visitors, but to aid police.
Chiesa says, one of the police partnerships that will start includes a team re-established in January 2011 by the ACPD and is comprised of nine officers and two sergeants who have a presence within “trouble spots” of the city. A second unit will provide “quality of life” patrols within the tourism district. The ACPD has trained over 50 officers for bike duty and 34 casino security personnel.
Additionally 25 special law enforcement police officers will be providing additional foot patrol throughout the Tourism District and are expected to be on the street by July 1st.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement is working with casinos in order to create minimum security and surveillance staffing levels for each location. In addition, the DGE is instituting a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone who commits a crime, threatens a casino employee, or disrupts operations by excluding them from all casinos.
Chiesa also announced the use of the Atlantic City Crime Task Force, which would target organized crime “throughout the city and beyond.” The Task Force is comprised of law enforcement officers from the state Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, The New Jersey State Police Street Gangs Unit, The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the ACPD, the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Department, and the State Parole Board.
The Task Force became operational August of 2011 and has lead to the arrest of 183 individuals on charges ranging from narcotics, weapons offenses, and homicide.
“By targeting the leaders and the most violent members of these groups, the cooperating agencies will help the Atlantic City Police Department to strike at the root of much of the crime that is occurring in the city and beyond.”
Chiesa as well as Atlantic Count Prosecutor Ted Housel also spoke about the importance new technology will play in preventing crime throughout Atlantic City.
“Law enforcement has found that cutting edge technology can be a force multiplier.” Said Chiesa.
Noting that unified video surveillance and communication systems have already been employed by cities like Newark, Jersey City, Camden, and East Orange.
“Such systems deter crime and increase the effectiveness of police personnel on the ground in reacting to criminal threats.” Adds Chiesa
The keystone of Atlantic City’s technology based crime fighting tactics will fall onto the “Eyes on Atlantic City” initiative. Spearheaded by the Atlantic City Prosecutor’s Office has taken the lead on the intelligence project, which sets out to gather data where privately owned surveillance systems are located and make that date available to law enforcement.
Currently the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, with assistance from the ACPD which has received 3.5 million in funding from the CRDA, has identified and mapped over 450 privately owned, non casino, surveillance systems within the city. Including their location, owner, and field of view.
In the future, with the help of 3.5 million dollars in funding from the CRDA, “the police will ultimately link to live cameras that will link to key locations throughout the city” explains Chiesa.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement has also been working in partnership with casinos, inspecting and documenting existing casino surveillance systems. Also there will be plans to link casino closed circuit TV systems with law enforcement systems during emergencies.
“The Division of Gaming Enforcement is working with the casinos to set minimum security and staffing levels for every casino.” Says Chiesa. This fall two Middlesex County residents were carjacked inside a parking deck of the Taj Mahal Casino, one was fatally shot.
One initiative in surveillance will focus on the Gateway Region of the Tourist District, including the Atlantic City Expressway, The Walk, The Columbus Center, the Convention and Transportation Centers, and nearby restaurants and stores.
Another initiative calls for video surveillance and PA systems to be installed on the boardwalk. According to Chiesa those plans will compliment the current plans to upgrade lighting on the boardwalk.
“The new lighting will more than double the intensity of illumination on the boardwalk.” Says Chiesa, adding that “all of these technology enhancements will put Atlantic City at the cutting edge of police surveillance and response capabilities.”
Quality of life initiatives will include a “zero tolerance” policy regarding prostitution, outreach to assist the homeless population along the beach, demolition of abandoned buildings, and cleaning area parks and ridding the area of graffiti.