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BRIDGETON - The city's police department is rolling out a new tool it hopes will fight crime while strengthening officers' bonds with the community.
Bridgeton officials unveiled its police substation vehicle Tuesday during a brief ceremony outside department headquarters on Fayette Street.
The converted box truck comes complete with infrared camera monitoring, computers and communication equipment with access to the department’s main headquarters and additional exterior lighting.
"We have a couple of locations in the city where the number of serious incidents is substantially higher and we felt a mobile substation may be the best approach,” Bridgeton Police Chief Michael Gaimari said. "The unit will not be out every day or all day and night due to available manpower, but we will be able to strategically deploy the unit to areas in the city where we have determined such need based on prior activity or from information developed through investigations pertaining to possible future incidents.”
Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly was enthusiastic about the substation Tuesday.
It is part of a long list of tools the mayor said Bridgeton will use to fight crime. Kelly said to expect more announcements aimed at public safety in the near future.
"I like innovation and I like to be on the cutting edge so that we can continue to be forward-thinking," Kelly said. "This is both cutting-edge and innovative, and something I'm sure our residents will be happy with."
Bridgeton officials for several months have discussed ways to beef up the police presence throughout the city while working with the manpower currently at their disposal.
The move was prompted by concerned citizens.
"The chief and I had a meeting with residents throughout the city, not just one section, but throughout the whole city, and they have fears about crime," Kelly said. "It is a legitimate fear, so we figured the best way to answer that concern was by having a police substation."
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae was on hand for Tuesday's event.
She spoke of the unit's ability to target hot spots around the city, which she said "can move around," while lauding Gaimari for "being a vanguard in Cumberland County for community policing."
"I believe (Gaimari) will be able to use this substation to do even more outreach in the community and interact with more citizens of the city of Bridgeton," Webb-McRae said. "So I commend Mayor Kelly, the City Council and Chief Gaimari for all that they're doing to be accessible to the citizens of Bridgeton."
Gaimari spoke extensively about using the substation as a tool to connect with the community.
"I want to put some stuff in there so like in the summertime when the weather is nice we can bring it out to a neighborhood, open it up, have hand-outs for the kids, trinkets for the kids, or books, or safety materials for the community, whether it be how to fortify your home or consumer fraud, things like that," Gaimari said. "Have kids meet the officers, have the public meet the officers, I mean that's a secondary. Right now it's a police substation and we're going to use it for law enforcement purposes."
Gaimari said the substation has already hit the road a couple of times.
The chief will continue to make adjustments in hopes of being as efficient as possible in using the new vehicle.
"It's going to depend a lot on available manpower. It's going to depend a lot on call volume," Gaimari said. "We could have a minimum of five to seven officers working, but if it's a busy night and we're running from call to call, I'm not going to be able to deploy it.
"It's going to be on an as-needed basis, and we've already come up with a protocol when it's going to be dispatched" within the limitations of the police budget, he said. "But I'm going to utilize it to the fullest extent possible."
Anthony V. Coppola; (856) 563-5258; firstname.lastname@example.org