As reported by nj.com, amid a rising tide of violence in Trenton, including a murder in the shadow of the Statehouse on Route 29, the State Attorney General sent officials yesterday to discuss helping Trenton’s layoff-depleted police department, Mercer County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini said today. The meeting between Bocchini, Trenton acting Police Director Dave Armitage, and officials from Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa’s office was hosted at Bocchini’s office and included the discussion of State Police help.
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack laid off roughly one-third of the 300 member police department in September amid sweeping city budget cuts. Some police officers were rehired through grants, but the department ended the year with at least 80 less officers. “Unfortunately it goes back once again to manpower, the department is severely understaffed,” Bocchini said.
Bocchini said he believes Trenton needs at least 50 more police officers to make a dent in the violence. Armitage wrote a letter to the State Police Superintendent seeking assistance on Monday and State Senator Shirley Turner has previously offered to broker a meeting regarding State Police intervention. Turner and Attorney General Chiesa had a lengthy meeting on the topic last week, Bocchini said.
The State Police fall under the Office of the Attorney General. Bocchini said no guarantees have been made and he cautioned that any plans were still in the discussion stage.
Trenton had three reported murders in January, following a December that saw six slayings in the city. The city’s homicide rate spiked to a four-year high for 2011. The Mercer Prosecutor’s office and Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler have already sent additional manpower to augment the Trenton police anti-crime unit.
Bocchini said yesterday’s meeting with Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Stephen Taylor was set up last week, prior to a drive-by shooting on Route 29 that left a 23-year old city man dead a few hundred yards from the Statehouse.