Police patrols will increase in Atlantic City’s most troubled areas today, a week after the city recorded its 11th homicide of 2012 — four more than this time last year.
The redeployment will include more patrol cars and, at times, officers on bicycles and even some on foot, Public Safety Director Willie Glass said.
“Any time there’s a spike in violence, it’s a concern to us,” he said. “We basically did a degree of reorganization we had planned on doing for some time.”
Rosters obtained by The Press of Atlantic City show manpower has dipped to as low as 14 officers patrolling the city’s six districts during a shift. The city has since added 20 Class II officers who were meant to move some veteran officers off the Boardwalk and into the neighborhoods.
A transfer order from Police Chief Ernest Jubilee that takes effect today also moves 15 officers onto patrol from other departments, including Juvenile Investigations, Traffic, and Information and Technology.
“It’s going to allow us to put more people in the hot spots of the city,” Glass said.
The city is on pace to have its highest homicide total since it reached 18 in 2006.
There were 14 homicides last year, topping the previous two years, which had 12 each.
“Nobody is doing anything about it,” said Na’im Ansari as he and more than 50 others marched through the city’s high-crime neighborhoods Friday night into Saturday morning. “Well, we’re doing something now, but it has to continue.”
Religious and community leaders organized the event, which they want to make a regular outing.
“The police, they have a job to do,” said Amin Muhammad, imam of Masjid Muhammad mosque. “As community members, we have a job to do. Let them do their job, and we’ll do our job.”
The group gathered at 11:45 p.m. Friday at the All Wars Memorial Building, then, just before midnight, they headed off in a double line led by Jubilee and Masjid Muhammad President Kaleem Shabazz.
“At 12 o’clock almost every night, gunshots ring out behind my house,” said Mujahid Salaam, 50, who lives in Stanley Holmes Village, the first point on the march. “This is real important. A lot of people are getting hurt senselessly. Old folks are afraid to come out of their homes.”
As the group marched farther, it seemed word got out. First, just a few people opened their doors, or could be seen watching out of windows. By the time the group circled around back toward the All Wars building, there were some groups sitting outside.
Young people even joined in, saying they usually aren’t allowed outside after dark because of the problems.
“You can hear gunshots all the time,” said 14-year-old Dondre Whitfield, who got his mother’s approval to join the march.
A few residents stopped Jubilee or other officers along the way to share their thoughts.
“Concerns, complaints, I’ll take them all,” he said after the march. “We even got a little bit of information.”
Additional police are needed but will likely draw complaints from residents, said Kathleen Lucas, who recalled that people said “they felt like hostages” when more police entered the neighborhoods.
“But I think that is the only way,” she said, crossing Route 30 as police cars blocked the way for the march.
“I’ve never seen the police out like this unless there’s a murder,” she said, looking as officers stood by patrol cars, lights flashing.
The reorganization is a way to help make officers more visible, but there are more plans to put officers on the street at peak hours, Glass said. Suggestions include 10-hour days over four-day workweeks, but those decisions will take some time — and could hit contractual snags.
A federal grant could also lead to the hiring of more officers, but that is still undecided. The city has been approved for funds to hire as many as 16 officers, but the city would still be responsible for part of that money, and, in the fourth year, would have to pay the salaries for all of those hires, Glass said.
“We’re continually looking at how to curb the violence,” he said. That includes keeping officers in the same districts so residents get to know those on the beat, in an effort to increase trust and communication.
“The communities are asking for an increased police presence. We’re basically concentrating more police personnel across the spectrum,” he said.
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