ATLANTIC CITY — Lively discussions centered on ways to curb youth violence and increase the effectiveness of neighborhood police officers dominated Wednesday’s public meeting of the Citizens Advisory Board.

Residents, board members and the top brass of the Atlantic City Police Department bandied about ideas as to how to best get the recent outburst of violence, some of which has been deadly, under control.

Of the 19 shootings reported in Atlantic City this year, seven have resulted in fatalities. Six of the seven shooting victims were 21 or younger. The nine homicides in Atlantic City this year already exceed the total for all of 2018.

The Police Department recently announced it would begin strictly enforcing a 10 p.m. juvenile curfew.

Police Chief Henry White said a contingent of city officials also was planning a trip to Newark to observe that city’s youth trauma response program for ideas to incorporate in Atlantic City.

Residents and board members agreed that while law enforcement was doing what it could, the community had to do more.

“When you talk about the police helping the community, we need to start thinking in reverse — the community helping the police,” said advisory board member and former Atlantic County Freeholder Charles Garrett. “They need as much help coming from the community as they can get in order to do their job. In the past I know we talked about people being reluctant to talk about what’s going on within their communities as it relates to crime, but the only way we’re going to get a handle on it is to have a partnership between the Police Department and the community.”

The improved relationship between the Police Department and the community has begun to take root in the city due, in part, to the addition of Neighborhood Coordination Officers.

The 16 assigned officers — two for each of the city’s six wards and four focused on outreach — have been on the streets for two months, said unit commander Lt. Wilber Santiago. To date, the NCOs have reported or assisted in 205 “board-ups” of abandoned or vacant properties, participated in more than 25 community-wide events and are in the process of launching a youth-focused street cleaning initiative to remove graffiti, Santiago said.

“We’re out there to do what we can do for the community,” he said. “We will continue to do everything we have to do. Our officers are very committed right now.”

White and Santiago said the goal is to increase the number of NCOs throughout the city, but any expansion of the unit would have to wait until the department can add more officers.

The Atlantic City Citizens Advisory Board meets monthly and holds public meetings quarterly. The board was created by city ordinance in 2018 based on a recommendation contained in the state’s transition report on Atlantic City, co-authored by Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy.

Contact: 609-272-7222 ddanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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