As the year comes to a close, I am writing to offer our residents, business owners and community stakeholders a status report on where we stand as a police department and a community in Pleasantville.
2016 was filled with difficult times for all of us – residents, cops, businesses – but also with a great deal of progress and improvement in Pleasantville. While we experienced a disturbing period of brazen gunfire in the summer, we were also brought together as a community and ended the year with significant decrease in homicides over 2015.
Similarly, as officers were ambushed across the country and neighborhoods erupted with violent protest against police tactics, locally our relationships with our neighborhoods have actually improved, as evidenced by increases in witnesses and tipsters offering information to combat violent crime.
At this time of year, we think it is absolutely imperative that our police department continues to evaluate our operations, tactics and communication channels to ensure we are saying and doing the kind of things that allow us to maintain legitimacy in our community and enjoy the confidence of those we serve. Accordingly, we have been working with the White House Community Oriented Policing Office to improve transparency and procedural justice and transparency initiatives through intelligence-led policing as well as maintaining a host of partnerships with regional and federal law enforcement to ensure we are getting the job done effectively.
Our intelligence-led policing strategy has improved this year through the assignment of an intelligence officer to the Real Time Crime Center for the southern region, in partnership with the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center.
Combined with the formation of specialized units to target street crime and violent crime, we will be better able to combat the crimes that cause fear in our neighborhoods and deter economic development in our business sector. In this way, we are striving to ensure that our officers and technical resources are deployed where and when they are needed most and getting the most impact from our efforts.
In the area of transparency, we hope to join the White House Police Data Initiative in 2017 to voluntarily report to the Justice Department on police use of force and other key statistics that ensure we are policing our town fairly and impartially, and in accordance with the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, spearheaded by Retired Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and his committee.
We have also expanded our community engagement strategy with the addition of significant resources from the Pleasantville Police Foundation, which raised more than $10,000 this year to support outreach and youth programs including funding the PAL program and recreating the Pleasantville Police Explorers under the Police Foundation Charter. All this is in addition to our standing partnerships with the Police Advisory Board, the Coalition for a Safe Community, and the Men of Pleasantville.
In the new year we will continue working with a variety of organizations such as Atlantic Prevention Resources to support treatment as well as law enforcement efforts to fight the opioid crisis.
In response to the needs of our community and at the urging of care providers, Mayor Tweedle directed our department to participate in the Narcan program facilitated by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office last year. In just a few months of 2016, we used Narcan for more than a dozen saves by police officers, and sadly, we do not expect a decline in that trend.
We are currently working with Assemblyman Mazzeo’s office and Narcan to find solutions to the skyrocketing price of the drug while still meeting the ongoing need for early intervention for someone experiencing an opiate overdose. I am optimistic we can get something workable in place in the near future.
We continue to look for funding sources for the Shotspotter project I have discussed so often. As it stands, we are entering a new grant cycle now and we will file a significantly improved application in February of 2017. While this remains a very competitive process, I am optimistic that the changes we have made with our operations will reflect well on our application and may provide us with an opportunity to be approved for funding.
Finally, we are moving forward with the significant changes necessary to accommodate the New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform guidelines published in December. While they will prove somewhat challenging in their implementation, I am confident we are up to the task and look forward to the new opportunities these changes will bring to Pleasantville.
In closing, I would ask that you keep our officers in your prayers and watch their back as they go about their duties while protecting our community. There are threats on social media every day to kill police officers, and some are tragically carried to fruition.
It seems that this national moment of concern has served as an opportunity for the most violent and abhorrent members of society to find an excuse to engage in violence against police officers. This is simply unacceptable, and I ask that each of you stand to support our officers and allow us to continue Pleasantville’s success in setting an example of what a community and a police department can do when we work together.
Thank you for this opportunity to communicate with your readers on behalf of the department and officers I care so much about.
Chief Sean Riggin
Pleasantville Police Department