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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Trenton needs all the help it can get

City Council deliberations this week over the possible usage of New Jersey State Police units in patrolling the streets of the City of Trenton have revealed a chasm of difference between the minds of some council members, and Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and former Police Director Joseph Santiago.

On one side council members like Gino Melone support the deployment of state police units in Trenton on general patrol, while the man who actually could put things in motion to get the troopers in Trenton - Mayor Palmer - adamantly opposes it.

Once again it looks like the mayor and his friends are out on the wrong side of the fence, based on their silly arguments and the reality of Trenton's law enforcement situation.

Mayor Palmer and the former police director say the state police are already involved in certain initiatives and task forces, and additional state police presence is unnecessary.

"For the record, we are utilizing New Jersey State Police officers in several initiatives," said Mayor Palmer, to the Trentonian. "For those who say let’s bring state troopers in, I say let’s keep Director Santiago here."

Despite those sentiments it seems there would be an obvious benefit in having an extra detail of police out on the prowl in Trenton, especially in the city's more crime-ridden areas. Remember, with the alleged reining in of overtime and widespread budget problems there is a dramatic reduction in real police manpower.

This week someone said there are actually some points during the 24 hours of a day where very few Trenton cops are actually out on the streets.

Apparently the very early morning hours see as little as four cops out in each of the city's four wards, which basically means that an unlucky series of crimes or accidents results in police coverage being stretched dangerously thin in a city with a blatant crime problem.

Cost has been cited by Mayor Palmer and others in refusing to ask for state police help, but as Councilman Jim Coston has pointed out, the price is actually much smaller than actually hiring the same number of cops and paying them salaries, benefits, and pensions.

Camden had between 16 and 20 state police working the streets, and this year Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed charging the poverty-stricken city $800,000 a year for the coverage, or roughly $40,000 per cop.

Since Trenton is already in the process of hiring 50 more cops and adding them to the police force, presumably for more than $40,000 a piece, it would be good to enter into some sort of agreement with the state police to get at least 10 or so troopers.

It looks like 10 troopers would cost roughly $400,000, and those 10 could make up some of the difference to fully staff a police department experiencing somewhat of a manpower shortage, especially with action by City Council members that moved to hire 50 more officers over the next year.

Or, we could go the Palmer and Santiago way, in keeping an overworked and understaffed police force on the streets of a city with a crime problem without the help of capable state troopers.

1 comment:

Old Mill Hill said...

Let's not overlook the very important fact that in order to rein in the rampant police overtime and to stretch the available manpower to the max, mandatory MINIMUM staffing levels for certain shifts and areas have been reduced.

Put another way, to make ends meet, former Police Director Joe Santiago has determined that we need fewer police on the street rather than increase the number of active sworn officers on the force!