As reported by nj.com, New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow, standing beside law enforcement leaders from across the state, announced the Department of Justice awarded New Jersey $5.7 million in grants that will be divided among 17 police departments to purchase various technologies ranging from gun shot detectors to closed-circuit cameras.
“While surveillance equipment and other technologies can never be a substitute for the police officers out on the street, our experience confirms that this equipment can certainly help them, in really critical ways, in fighting crime and apprehending criminals,” she said.
Cities will receive either $250,000 or $500,000 in funding, depending on their population and violent crime statistics. Newark, Camden, Jersey City, Trenton, Paterson, and Elizabeth, which all have a population of at least 75,000 and high violent crime rates, will receive $500,000. Eleven smaller cities that also struggle with violence, including Plainfield and Atlantic City, will receive $250,000.
Police officials said advanced law enforcement technology has helped identify high-crime areas and can play critical roles in investigations. Newark Police began using a surveillance network in 2007, according to Police Director Garry McCarthy, and the cameras helped lead to the arrest and conviction of a murder suspect that same year. Evidence obtained from cameras and other surveillance methods have also developed “a record” of helping prosecutors earn convictions, said Carolyn Murray, Essex County’s acting prosecutor.
Departments can also use the grant funding to hire civilian personnel to monitor surveillance cameras and upgrade their dispatch centers to operate on a county wide or regional level. Regionalization of police forces became a hot topic in New Jersey after a slew of police layoffs in 2010. Earlier this year, Governor Chris Christie met with mayors from Newark, Trenton, and Camden to explore the idea, and Somerset County may merge its 19 municipal police departments by the end of 2013, a move Dow said she supports.
“Certainly I think we should take this further in law enforcement, and I do support studying it and examining it,” she said. “Frankly, I think we’re behind the times.”
Dow said she decided not to use the funding to rehire laid off police officers because the grant could not sustain jobs over time and could result in a second round of layoffs.