Union City Mayor Brian Stack and newly-appointed Police Chief Brian Barrett held a public safety meeting Monday evening at the Bruce Walters Recreation hall to discuss the community’s concerns and announce current and future plans for improving the city’s security.
Both officials emphasized the important role that residents play in keeping their community safe.
“This is a wonderful place to live, a wonderful place to work, and a great place to send our kids to school,” Barrett said. “But no place is perfect, and that’s why we need our residents to be our eyes and our ears. If you see something, say something. Don’t wait.”
In 2011, he reported, over 100,000 calls were made to the police department.
“If you see something suspicious in your neighborhood, don’t wait for someone else to call. It’s your suggestions, your complaints, your opinions, and your ideas that help us to make the city better,” Stack said. “We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better as the days go by thanks to you.”
Fewer than a dozen people attended the meeting, but as both Stack and Barrett mentioned, they hoped the attendance indicated fewer major problems. However, Stack continued, “There is no problem too small.”
The city hosts around 50 public safety meetings in different neighborhoods each year to try and stay abreast of residents’ issues.
Stack encouraged residents to spread the word to their neighbors. “You don’t have to be best friends with them,” he said, “but you should know their names. It’s important to look out for each other because it decreases crime dramatically.”
“We need our residents to be our eyes and our ears. If you see something, say something.” –Police Chief Brian Barrett
New York Avenue between 2nd and 18th streets will be repaved, receive new sidewalks, decorative lighting, and 200 new trees. During the summer an additional 400 trees will be planted around the city.
Four new traffic lights will also be installed and every street light will eventually be brightened to increase visibility at night. “It’s always been my philosophy, and I know that of the police department, that bright streets make it safer for everyone,” Stack said.
New camera systems have been installed throughout the city and will continue to be installed throughout the coming year. They are already in place on Summit Avenue between Paterson Plank Road and 18th Street, on Bergenline Avenue between 2nd to 15th streets, and on upper Bergenline Avenue in the business district between 40th and 49th streets, Barrett announced.
Additional personnel have been hired to help man the surveillance room at the police department where the cameras are monitored as they record street activity.
More with less
Barrett reported that five new police officers have been hired under the Rice Bill that went into effect in N.J. in 2010. The bill, named for state Sen. Ronald Rice (D – Newark), gives police officers who have been laid off during their first year of police work five years of what Barrett termed “priority status.”
This means they are placed ahead of others on future civil service (state worker) lists, and municipalities such as Union City can re-hire them without putting them through the police academy or having to train them from scratch.
“These are people who’ve lost their jobs,” Barrett said. “They’re family people, we hire them, and they go on the street immediately.” He added that five more officers are currently being selected by the department and will be on the streets on active duty within the next two weeks.
Thanks to Detective Tony Gomez’s two-year assistance with the Office of Homeland Security, Barrett said, the police department has purchased three new detective vehicles with money forfeited in operations related to the department. Depending on the case, Barrett said, up to 20 percent of the money confiscated as a result of these crimes is given back to the city for police purposes.
“Rather than taxpayers’ money, this is criminal money that has come to Union City that we’ve taken away from them,” Barrett explained, “and we’re using it to buy equipment to help us in the police department.”
Cameras in action
One resident informed Stack and Barrett that her cell phone had been allegedly stolen recently by the Burger King on Bergenline Avenue, and when she went back to the scene that day, she noticed there was a camera on the building right where her phone was allegedly taken.
“A lot of our businesses have cameras,” Barrett said, “and our detectives will check to see if we can take care of it.”
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 28 at 7 p.m. at the Blue Flame Pizzeria located at 601 New York Ave.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.