ATLANTIC CITY — “I can remember hearing a police siren every five minutes, day and night,” Robin Siegfried said as she sat at the bar in the Ducktown Tavern. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Crime in the city is a third of what it was five years ago, according to statistics released by the Atlantic City Police Department, and locals and out-of-towners alike said they’ve noticed the difference.
“You can definitely see it in the people walking the streets,” said Siegfried, 57, who owns a home in Brigantine and comes into the city frequently to dine and shop. “It makes you feel great, safer.”
The third-quarter stats released in October showed that both violent crimes, including murder, rape, aggravated and simple assault, and robbery; and property crimes, including motor vehicle theft, larceny and burglary, are down 36 percent and 35 percent, respectively, from the same period last year.
“You don’t hear about (crime) as much,” said Leonard Golden, 58, who lives in Egg Harbor Township but works in Atlantic City. “And when you do, it seems like there’s a cause, a reason — it’s not random.”
The reduction in crime can be attributed to the department’s use of technology and community policing efforts, Deputy Chief James Sarkos said.
Technology, including Risk Terrain Modeling, or RTM, and Project P.A.C.T., a camera-sharing program between businesses and the department, have worked to drive crime down, he said.
RTM analyzes data and helps map areas where crimes are likely to occur, but also identifies factors that draw crime to an area, while the camera-sharing program has contributed to the 1,400 cameras officers can virtually patrol in the city’s surveillance center. Authorities credited the center with helping catch an Egg Harbor City teen accused of killing a Ventnor man and fleeing into the city last week.
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“All those things together have a synergistic effect to help reduce crime, and I think that’s what got us to where we are today,” he said.
During the first three quarters of the year, both Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Resort Casino opened, as well as Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus. While that increased the number of people in the city, it also brought more economic opportunity to the area, Sarkos said.
“I think that has had a significant effect on the continued reduction in crime,” he said. “They say nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
The new casinos and the university are driving more opportunity into the city, Golden said, which will draw even more people to the resort.
“I think things are going to get even better,” he said. “You can feel it getting better.”
The relationship between the department and the community has also improved over the past few years, Sgt. Kevin Fair said.
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“It’s a cooperative effort,” Fair said. “We can do so much, but with the help of the residents, the visitors, if they see something, call us. We’ll do what we can do, within the confounds of the law, to make this city a safer place for everyone.”
But overall, Sarkos said, it’s the men and women on the street who make the difference.
“Our strongest attribute is the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Atlantic City Police Department,” he said. “They put their heart and souls into their work every single day, and I have to credit their hard work for the reduction.”