Mutualink News
03/20/2012

Technology, increase in law-enforcement presence will address 'clean and safe' in Atlantic City, Chiesa say

ATLANTIC CITY — "Unprecedented" law enforcement partnerships along with technology upgrades and a focus on quality of life are helping the city reach the governor’s goal of “clean and safe,” state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced Monday.

“A clean and safe Atlantic City is the key to an economic turnaround in the region,” Chiesa said at a news conference in Boardwalk Hall that included city, county and state law enforcement leaders. “Through unprecedented teamwork involving the police department, the casinos, and other public and private partners, we are producing results that people can see and feel.”

Technological upgrades to the Police Department’s antiquated system is a major focus.

“Cutting edge technology can be a force multiplier,” Chiesa said.

The discussion comes just two days before City Council is set to vote on two technology-based resolutions.

One is a resolution to finally accept a $3.5 million grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to upgrade the Police Department’s technology. Those plans include a new records management system that would allow for crime mapping and an overhaul to the current computer-aided dispatch system, or CAD, which is how dispatchers log 911 calls. The CRDA voted to award the money in September.

Council also will vote Wednesday night to have ShotSpotter furnish the city with a gunshot detection and location system for $186,000. The company would provide acoustic sensors that would be set up around the city. A boom or bang activates them and sends them to a center where trained dispatchers determine whether it was a gunshot. The city’s cameras would be linked into the system, and turn toward the sound of the shot to help in capturing the scene.

“The officers on the street are the ones who get the job done,” police Chief Ernest Jubilee said. Technology and the additional law enforcement partnerships “translate into an easier job for the officers on the street. The support from the county, state and federal level has been unbelievable.”

Chiesa talked about many initiatives already in place, including January’s addition of two tactical teams to police the city. One focuses on the troubled spots in neighborhoods, while the second deals with the Tourism District.

There also is the 7-month-old Atlantic City Violent Crimes Task Force, which combines city, county, state and federal officers to assist with street operations.

“It’s actually all about team work,” Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert said.

That includes 34 casino security personnel trained by the Police Department to act as extra eyes on the street. Additionally, there are about 60 trained bicycle officers.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement is establishing minimum security and surveillance staffing levels for each casino. There also will be a “zero tolerance” policy at the casinos for those who have committed a crime or threatened anyone’s safety, and they would be excluded from all casinos.

Those crimes would include prostitution, which has been targeted with undercover sweeps for both prostitutes and those paying for them. A new effort has casino security photographing those arrested for prostitution and creating an “exclusion list” that would allow the casino or State Police to evict them once spotted.

“Atlantic City has never experienced the current level of information sharing and cooperation amongst agencies at each level of government,” Jubilee said.

A recent 2½-week initiative was credited with quieting violence that had resulted in several shootings that started off the year.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel spoke of the initiative he started in cataloguing the city’s privately owned surveillance cameras. The DGE Enforcement is now doing similar documentation of video surveillance and related resources within the city’s casinos.

City-owned cameras also are set to be upgraded, then will be integrated with the ShotSpotter system.

“I can’t tell you how helpful it is when you have videotape of the actual offense,” Housel said. “Even when you can’t see the perpetrator, it shows you how it happened, where they ran, how they did it.”

But nothing replaces witnesses, he said.

That is why the department has reinvigorated efforts to with community outreach, Jubilee said.

A PowerPoint presentation by Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert showed there are now eight Neighborhood Watch groups in the city representing the various districts.

Officers attend those meetings to hear the community’s concerns and show the department’s commitment, Jubilee said.

There also are plans to launch Tip411, an Internet-based system that allows witnesses to text back and forth with law enforcement while maintaining anonymity. It also will allow the department to put out information to people through a specified alert system, Gilbert said.

Many of the technology enhancements will be funded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

“We’re all coming together to make sure we have all the resources we need to be clean and safe,” CRDA Chairman John Palmieri said. “We believe that together we will be able to make a significant difference.”

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