Two weeks ago the mayor promised to hold several town hall meetings throughout the city on public safety after hundreds of residents began speaking out about their fears about crime.
Overall statistics show that crime in the city is down. However, residents argue that in some communities crime is still unacceptably too high and they believe that some nonviolent crimes go unreported. Since the beginning of the year residents have complained to city officials about the problem and have asked for more cops on the streets.
In addition to these meetings the mayor and Chief Comey also appointed 17 officers to the position of detective. These detectives will serve as part of a Community Response Team that will address public safety and quality of life concerns. The detectives will be in uniform, but as detectives will have the added ability to conduct criminal investigations and take statements, thus expediting the investigation process.
In addition to creating the Community Response Team, Healy has vowed to hire more police officers. The JCPD currently has about 802 uniformed officers, approximately 98 fewer cops than two years ago. Nearly 100 officers are eligible to retire by November, with another 85 eligible for retirement by July 2013.
"As I said in my State of the City address, and as I have stated publicly since then, my administration is working closely with the chief of police to hire additional officers," Healy said in a statement released Monday. "We are actively pursuing the hiring of officers through the Rice Bill and through lateral transfers, and we have also asked the state to certify officers from the current list so that we can begin the process of sending a new class to the academy."
Under the Rice Bill - which was sponsored by State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) and signed into law in 2010 - police officers who were laid off due to the economy are given first priority when police department vacancies are available around the state. Also, officers who were laid off within their first year of employment are not be required to go through the police academy again or retake the civil service exam. - E. Assata Wright