MILLVILLE - City police are now patrolling the municipality with a new shift system that officials said should better protect residents from crime.
The change involves having squads work 12-hour shifts, a system that began at 7 p.m. Saturday, City Commissioner David Vanaman said.
Each shift will be staffed by a squad whose members will work together all the time, he said. There will be four squads, he said.
The changes will put more officers on the street at any given time, said Vanaman, whose duties include overseeing the Police Department. Squad members also will get to know each other, and their routines, better, he said.
"The officers will also be working together as a team," he said. "It should build some camaraderie."
City officials also hoped the move will help reduce crime here. State Police statistics show that the city had a crime rate of 68 incidents per 1,000 residents in 2011. That was the highest crime rate of any nonresort municipality in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties. The 2011 statistics were the latest available from State Police.
While the change was considered for years, Vanaman said it followed the recent ratification of a new contract with Police Department members. The city opted to finally go ahead with the plan after the new shift system was requested by police, he said.
Each shift will consist of 10 to 12 members, Vanaman said. A squad will work a week that includes three 12-hour shifts and an 8-hour shift, and a week that involves three 12-hour shifts, he said. The squads will rotate, he said.
Vanaman said the change will reduce overtime. There will be enough officers on the new squads to cover the city even when some squad members are attending things such as mandatory firearms training, he said. Officers will not have to be called in to bolster the squad, he said.
The city is also in the process of bringing its Police Department up to the full complement of 74 members, he said.
The department has 70 members, Vanaman said. The city is going through the selection and interview process that will result in four more people going through police academy training, he said.
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