Christmas does not always mean holiday cheer in the region.
Over the past 11 years, there have been 10 different incidents of violence in the area during the Christmas holiday. But local police officials say they do not think the holidays are more violent than other time of the year.
Local agencies say they keep departments fully staffed and have some issues they deal with that are unique on the holiday — especially when alcohol, family and/or holiday stress play a factor.
The local officials say the incidents common during the holiday include traffic, drunken driving, domestic and child custody disputes, and shoplifting and other types of robbery.
State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said there have been 10 reported shootings in the state on Christmas Day, and the only one in South Jersey was in 2010 in Atlantic City. There have been several deadly incidents in South Jersey on Christmas Eve and the day after the holiday over the last decade, incluidng two — one in Atlantic City and one in Pleasantville — on Dec. 24, 2011.
There was one reported incident of violence this year when a suspect shot three people at 1 a.m. Dec. 26 at a Christmas party at the St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Church hall in Vineland.
State troopers perform extra patrols on state highways as there are more people traveling and more checks for drunken drivers on the the holiday.
“One of the drawbacks in a job as a public servant, you’re working when everyone else is home enjoying their holiday,” he said. “Christmas is no exception. You have all hands on deck.”
Galloway Township police Chief Patrick Moran said the department usually gets a handful of child custody complaints during the holidays as families want to be sure they spend time together. Domestic incidents can also be frequent — especially later in the day when people have had alcohol, he said.
“Most of the times it’s quiet, but it has been a busy day sometimes,” he said. “It can be like any other day. It could be feast or famine.”
Local departments also juggle the schedule as best they can.
Middle Township police Capt. John Edwards said the department keeps its manpower standard for Christmas just like any other day.
“Supervisors are generally less stringent on break times, but the integrity of our area assignment for response to calls remains in place,” he said. “Our officers tend to trade days among themselves to allow for those with children to take off for the holiday, but as police officers we understand that we have to work holidays sometimes, it’s part of the job.”
Pleasantville police Capt. Rocky Melendez said those who work on Christmas will try to meet sometime before the holiday to celebrate together with their colleagues.
The department also makes sure to have a presence at the local shopping areas, which are busiest as the holiday approaches, he said.
In Hamilton Township, a high priority is traffic and the major shopping centers along the Black Horse Pike.
Lt. Anthony Alcott said there are more instances of shoplifting and car break-ins as more people patronize the shopping centers.
“That’s the primary thing we look for,” he said.
Alcott said people sometimes leave gifts on their seats in plain view and leave the vehicles vulnerable to thefts.
Chief Stacy Tappeiner said the department will perform enhanced patrols in the shopping districts and that traffic is also a big concern on the holiday.
“We do the best we can for all the shoppers out there,” he said. “It’s a regional shopping center. There’s a lot of traffic.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow @landaupressofac on Twitter