PORT REPUBLIC - State Police from the Tuckerton barracks in West Creek, Ocean County, have patrolled this small town for decades at no direct cost to the municipality, but officials are looking at a unique way to put that responsibility in local hands.
Mayor Gary Giberson said he has been talking with Galloway Township Mayor Don Purdy about a shared-services agreement that would send Galloway officers into Port Republic.
The idea is to have the funding the State Police uses to patrol Port Republic turned over to Galloway, which would then hire two additional police officers for its municipal department.
Port Republic is one of eight rural Atlantic County towns that are patrolled by the State Police at no cost to the municipalities. The cost-free protection began in 2008 after a group of mayors fought successfully against paying for State Police services. The state Council on Local Mandates determined it to be the state's obligation.
There are obstacles to the Port Republic-Galloway plan, including the state's historic practice of advocating that State Troopers patrol rural towns that lack their own police departments.
Ninth Legislative District Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, whose district includes Galloway Township, said that while what the mayors are discussing makes sense in terms of sharing services, he believes it would be difficult for the state to create a new funding mechanism to make it work. The idea would be a first for New Jersey.
Giberson said troopers do a fantastic job with small towns and, recently, the Atlantic County Sheriff's Department also began farming out patrols to Port Republic. But he can't help but think a town next to his would provide even more coverage. Giberson said the cost of the sheriff's patrols are covered by the county.
Galloway would likely have to hire two more police officers if it picks up patrolling Port Republic, Purdy said. The township department's ranks have been depleted during the past five years - from 74 officers in 2008 to 47 today.
Township residents would benefit from the shared-service agreement, because there would be two extra police officers and additional revenue for the township, Police Chief Pat Moran said.
"We can incorporate Port Republic into one of our areas now and easily absorb that area. I'm thinking that the amount of calls they generate is not that much. We run on two 12-hour shifts, with four squads and between five and 10 officers each shift," Moran said.
When there is a call for assistance in neighboring Port Republic, a Galloway officer is usually first on the scene before a trooper arrives, Moran said.
"For the State Police to ensure that Port Republic has at least one trooper that is able to respond at all times, the state has to hire five people for that area. We could increase our state aid by $350,000, take those troopers out of Port Republic, put them somewhere else where they're needed, and we can do patrols for half the cost," Moran said.
The one-way commute for a trooper to respond from the State Police Tuckerton barracks to Port Republic proper is 16 miles. The commute for an officer to respond from the Galloway Township Police Department building to Port Republic is 10 miles.
Even after a new 27,500-square-foot State Police barracks being built off Jimmie Leeds Road and the Garden State Parkway in Galloway is complete, troopers will continue to respond from the Tuckerton Barracks, State Police spokesman Lt. Stephen Jones said.
The Tuckerton Barracks is part of Troop C, and the new barracks in Galloway will be included in the State Police Troop A section, Jones said. But troopers will be able to respond for backup in the surrounding areas once the new barracks is built in Galloway.
"Troopers are on pro-active patrol in all of the station areas, but not necessarily every minute of the day is someone in Port Republic. They respond on an as-needed basis," he said.
But Jones said troopers are responding quickly. He said it is clear by looking at response time numbers that there is a presence of troopers in Port Republic.
"They're doing a great job there," he said.
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