ATLANTIC CITY — Members of the Chelsea Neighborhood Association expressed concerns about safety at Thursday night’s meeting, as Deputy Police Chief Ernest Jubilee made his first public appearance after becoming head of the force.
Jubilee told about 20 people gathered at Our Lady Star of the Sea School that he is working with the mayor, city administration and the police officers’ union to bring back the 60 officers who were laid off this year due to budget constraints.
At the beginning of this year, there were 364 officers on the Atlantic City police force, and now there are 286, Jubilee said in his 25-minute presentation. The reduction includes 26 officers who retired and were not replaced.
“We had a handle on crime in the city. We were addressing quality of life issues,” Jubilee said. “Today we find ourselves answering 911 calls.”
While officers are still responding quickly to emergencies, there are not enough detectives to investigate crimes, Jubilee said. The Prosecutor’s Office helped by sending six detectives to work in Atlantic City.
The resort is at a crossroads, as Gov. Chris Christie plans state oversight of the city, and safety is one of his prime goals, Jubilee said.
Dr. Howard Barsky, who lives in the Ocean Club, said there have several recent muggings in his complex.
“There’s not enough of a police presence to deter crime,” Barsky said.
Jubilee agreed that is an issue, but said a $3.5 million grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority will provide technology that will improve efficiency for the officers still on duty. For, example, each patrol car will be equipped with a global-positioning device, so dispatchers and supervisors will know the location of every patrol car in the city and officers can respond to calls more quickly.
Association President Brian Thomas said he saw news reports that the Atlantic City crime rate is going up, and that the criminals are bolder because there are fewer officers on the street. People are getting shot, and perpetrators never seem to be arrested.
“It’s happening here, it’s happening in Pleasantville. People are afraid to leave their houses,” Thomas said.
But Jubilee said the city is generally safe.
“If you look at the crime rate based on our residents, it’s pretty bad,” Jubilee said.
But Atlantic City gets about 32 million visitors a year, and half of all casino employees come into the city to work, he said. The police are concentrating their efforts on the areas of town where past experience indicates crimes are most likely to occur.
“The city is in dire straits because of the budget, but I’m confident we’ll get our officers back,” Jubilee said.
An announcement about bringing back at least some of the laid-off officers may be forthcoming in the next few days, Jubilee said.
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