Sally Strawn has seen the difference on the Atlantic City Boardwalk this summer.
During her monthly visits to the shore, she's seen Boardwalk ambassadors answering questions, police officers walking the beat and not nearly the number of homeless people sleeping on benches or asking for money.
"It makes a big difference," said the resident of Hellertown, Pa., outside of Allentown.
Atlantic City police increased their numbers this summer by using Special Law Enforcement Officer IIs, police who work at an hourly rate with powers limited to within the city and only during work hours. Seasonal officers have long been used by shore towns such as Wildwood and Ocean City, but this is the first time Atlantic City has used the officers since there has been a Class II designation.
The officers walk the Boardwalk in pairs split in about four districts, with the districts sometimes shrinking during busy weekends and holidays.
"It's good," said Omar Khayam, manager of Jersey Star and Fashion Wear on the 1600 block of the Boardwalk, who has been there about six years. "This year we're seeing many police walking. We've had a couple of problems, and the officers took care of it."
The plan is to keep the officers on year-round, with their hours halved under state statute.
But, that won't happen for another month, since Atlantic City's season lasts into October, Capt. William Mazur said. While most shore towns have their season end with Labor Day, that isn't the case here.
"Our seasonal period is based on activity," Mazur said.
While nothing is set yet, most of the Class IIs will have their workweek adjusted to 20 hours sometime in October. One or two will be able to stay full time under the law, Mazur said. They don't have a definite answer on that number.
One of the city's 20 Class IIs already knows he will move to full time. Mohammad Kaiser, 25, is one of six new recruits for a full-time position as an Atlantic City police officer, since he was already on the hiring list. Several of the Class IIs plan to take the test when it comes up again.
"Definitely everybody's ultimate goal is to be full time," Class II Officer Dean Tibbitt, 23, said.
And, they already have the experience.
"I could definitely see myself doing this as a full-time career," said Donnell Holland Jr., 19.
"I am pleased by the new officers' development over the summer," Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said. "They all proved to be eager and quick learners, which helped the department integrate them into our patrol plan."
The department is currently at about 320 officers, below the 330 minimum the city and PBA agreed to when laid-off officers were brought back last year. There are plans to have more in the academy next year, when several retirements are expected in light of the change in health benefits.
"I was very pleased with our first season of Class II officers," Jubilee said. "They proved to be very effective in the assignment that they were given, and I'm encouraged that they're going to help us even more next year as we expand their duties in and around the Tourism District."
Those extra duties would include possibly putting the officers on bicycles and ATVs that ride the beach and also foot patrols on Pacific Avenue, he said.
Atlantic City also is actively looking to hire 10 more Class II officers to pump up what they now have and fill in for the loss of hours in October. The statute limits year-round hours to discourage municipalities from hiring the Class II officers in place of full-time officers.
City Council approved as many as 40 Class IIs. Like the current group, the call is for city residents.
The officers aren't the only new addition to the Boardwalk, the ambassadors also have been highly visible in their bright yellow shirts. They answer questions, direct people and act as extra eyes for the police.
"We work with them a lot," Tibbitt said. "It's the whole department really. We all work together."
The homeless outreach also seems to have had an impact.
Long before the issue garnered focus following the arrest of a homeless Philadelphia woman in the killing of two Canadian tourists, police Officer Bill Wenz hadbeen working with various social services to get people off the streets and the help they need.
Said Strawn as she sat people watching this weekend: "You can really see the difference."
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