Pleasantville police are keeping crime numbers down with a little help from their friends in blue.
Last month, the city had a string of shootings in the New Hope Community, so more frequent patrols were instituted with officers not only walking the beat, but increasing rapport with residents to let them know what police were doing and to help in solving the problem.
But with an average of just six officers on the street per shift, it took some help from surrounding departments including Northfield, Mullica Township and officers from the Atlantic County Jail.
"Basically, we ask for help, and people give it to us," Capt. Sean Riggin said.
The move was successful. By the second week of the initiative, violent incidents ended in the neighborhood and officers made 11 arrests, took two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun off the street, and recovered a stolen vehicle, along with seizing 100 packets of heroin and six packets of marijuana.
The department has 46 officers, including seven who are not working and the police chief. That means about 16 officers per 24-hour period answer an average of 110 calls in that time frame.
"It's nothing for our chief to be directing traffic," Riggin said.
Last week, Chief Jose Ruiz was on the street searching for men reportedly with guns near the police station. He took two suspects into custody. While searching for a third, he instead recognized a woman who had been seen with the males earlier.
Inside the stroller, 19-year-old Arshanta Matos was pushing was her 8-month-old baby - and two loaded handguns.
"The chief has directed all of us, every officer in the department, to go out and fill in the gaps where we can," Riggin said. "He was just following his own directive. It didn't surprise me a bit."
Recently, officers have been working extra hours to man traffic while several road work projects go on throughout the city. That money is paid through the entity, not the city, but adds stress and hours on the officers, Riggin said.
Mayor Jesse Tweedle is supportive of the department, Riggin said, "but the money just isn't there."
Tweedle has been a leader in efforts to get police and the community to have more interaction, including an upcoming barbecue Saturday at the New Hope Community Park. He is a part of the Atlantic City-Pleasantville Municipal Planning Board, which is attacking violence from all sides while recognizing the two towns share problems.
Violence and other crime often crosses the border. But, money to help pay for police and other initiatives doesn't.
Tweedle had hoped for help in getting some Casino Reinvestment Development Authority money because of the acknowledged relationship. But no one in a position to do so is fighting the Atlantic City-only state mandate for those funds.
But the city has taken advantage of grants, upgrading its communications department, which includes cameras along Main Street and allows mapping of where crime is. There are computers in the patrol car, along with GPS, which allows dispatch to know where each officer is at all times.
It's a good back up, especially with so few officers.
A call came in about 9:30 on a Wednesday night. Quickly, the officer radios that he doesn't need backup.
"That's a veteran officer who doesn't want to waste guys," Riggin said.
But they'll come anyway - just in case. That's the positive of having such a small department.
"There aren't any fights or egos," Riggins said. "I can't express how blown-away proud of our guys that I am."
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