Atlantic City police: More officers needed to fight violent crime
ATLANTIC CITY — Amid a recent spike in deadly violence in the city, there’s a split reaction among some elected officials as to how best handle the situation.
Mayor Marty Smalls held a news conference on Monday alongside law enforcement leaders at the city, county and federal level, saying that the city would continue to support its police force and community programs while urging the public to be accountable as well.
“This is a call for the community — all levels of government do not raise your children. Police your home, collectively let’s police our community,” Smalls said, flanked by Atlantic City Police Officer in Charge James Sarkos, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner and City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, as well as a representative of the FBI.
Also on Monday, two members of the Atlantic City Council held a news conference at the site of a recent homicide, voicing their request for State Police to take over operations in Atlantic City.
Council members Latoya Dunston and Moisse “Mo” Delgado, who this month announced an independent campaign to challenge Small’s reelection bid in November, emailed a letter to both Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“Actions have consequences, when Chris Christie cut ACPD to pre-casino staffing levels it immediately had a daily negative impact on residents and visitors alike,” Atlantic City PBA Local 24 President Jules Schwenger said in a written statement on Tuesday.
“There are many factors that have set the stage for our current wave of violence. But something we can all agree on is Atlantic City can not be successful if Atlantic City is not safe,” Schwenger continued.
The local police union leader said that the city police force needs “adequate manpower, minimum 330 Officers, competitive compensation to help retain Officers, employee rights, and support at all levels of government.”
State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said Atlantic City is not the only area in the state requesting extra help, when asked about it at Monday’s state briefing.
“We support Atlantic City with an Atlantic City task force, our crime suppression, our Real Time Crime Center that’s down in Gloucester County,” Callahan said.
“As far as the notion of sending in marked troop cars, that’s still yet to be determined; it could be certainly on the table. Similar requests are coming to us from our major cities across the state."
Callahan also said he would be speaking remotely to the Atlantic City council on Thursday, at the recent request of Councilman Shabazz.
At Monday's press conference, Shabazz said that he fully supported existing community anti-crime initiatives, as did several other city council members who could not attend.
With such violent incidents as a deadly stabbing on Saturday and a shooting that wounded three and killed one on Sunday, Sarkos said the city police force has deployed additional uniformed officers in strategic spots.
Such extra patrols are already having an impact, Sarkos said, as officers on Sunday found 90 bags of heroin and a loaded handgun that had been reported stolen on a local resident during a traffic stop.
He also said the city continues to promote that the public submit anonymous crime tips to police via text and app, as well as Project PACT - Protecting Atlantic City Together — a camera sharing program that involves local businesses.
Sarkos has been serving as officer in charge since October, after longtime Atlantic City Police Chief Henry White retired.
Both Smalls, a Democrat, and Delgado accused the other of playing politics amid the crime spike.
“I question their leadership, I question their judgement and with an election coming in November, I question their motive,” Smalls said of the crime scene press conference. “And people see right through it.”
“Our families in Atlantic City doesn’t deserve to be played with in the game of politics, our city deserves to be safer in and out of the tourism district,” Delgado said in a written statement ahead of his own Monday event.