New Barnegat Police Chief Outlines Goals in Strategic Plan

Mar 28, 2018
File Photo by Jack Reynolds

Since becoming Barnegat Township’s police chief last month, Keith Germain has outlined goals for the department as part of a five-year strategic plan

He said an immediate goal for 2018 is to design a new police headquarters. It would be part of a $14.2 million bond ordinance adopted late last year for a new municipal building as well as the police facility.

“The opportunity to design a new police headquarters, while exciting for the agency and its members, is a monumental responsibility,” Germain said. “Decisions made over the next year with regards to building design and layout will impact every officer of the agency, both present and future, for many decades to come. It is critical to get the design and layout of the new building right. To that end, we will include and leverage the talents of all stakeholders in the process.”

Germain said most of the department members work out of trailers without indoor plumbing, At times, this situation forces officers to escort someone from the holding cell to a rest room used by other employees.

He looks to establish a crime reduction unit, which would be the evolution of the Barnegat Police Narcotics Unit.

“It is envisioned as an elite team of highly skilled police officers with a history of exceptional performance,” said Germain. The unit would be responsible for high-value investigations involving gangs, drugs and weapons. The unit could also be directed at crime outbreaks in specific areas or involving certain modus operandi.”

He also hopes to improve community policing through enhancing outreach programs and a greater presence through the social media.

“Our success as an agency depends on our relationship with the community,” said Germain. “With this in mind, it is incumbent upon the agency to build and foster that relationship as much as resources allow. Barnegat is a unique community with varied demographics; our community policing approach must be tailored to reach and appeal to all of these demographics.”

Another goal is increased staffing.

Germain said the department is currently staffed by 45 full-time sworn police officers and one civilian employee. Despite an increase in population since 2008 of more than 6 percent, the department has seen a sworn officer reduction of 10 percent from its peak of 50 sworn officers in 2015.

“Looking at available Uniform Crime Reporting data dating back to 1990, it is possible to get a detailed, long-term assessment of township population, staffing and crime rate,” he said. “What is surprising to many who were not employed by the agency (nor residents of Barnegat) in the 1990s is that Barnegat had a significantly higher overall crime rate during that time period than it does today. What is less surprising is that the data suggests that crime rates can be correlated to the number of officers per thousand residents. In the early 1990s, for instance, the overall crime rate for Barnegat peaked at 26.6 offenses per thousand residents. At the same time, violent crime peaked at 3.2 incidents per thousand and non-violent crime peaked at 24.2 per thousand. Those numbers are the highest crime levels in Barnegat for the last 28 years.”

He said the opioid crisis continues to impact Barnegat with increasing frequency.

“Predictably, opioid-related crimes such as theft and burglary are likely to present a challenge in the coming years,” said Germain. “The increase in gang activity in our area of Ocean County combined with the increasing demand for drugs makes it it highly likely that we will see an increase in gang members attempting to operate in the township.”

He said that in 2017, the narcotics unit, despite having only two officers assigned for the majority of 2017, was responsible for more than 13 percent of all arrests made by the agency.

“Crime reduction strategies going forward will need to include increasing both our partnerships with the community as well as resources dedicated to the components of the agency that are having the greatest success combating the specific threats to quality of life and community safety,” said Germain.

The chief said that various capital and equipment improvements will be explored and evaluated for their feasibility. An example would be an encrypted radio system.

“Encryption will allow officers and communications personnel to communicate without transmissions being overheard by suspects or other involved parties,” he said. “The current ease with which the general public can overhear police transmissions presents privacy concerns to victims and witnesses, negatively impacts officer safety, and can impede successful resolution of police matters.”

He said upgrades to the mobile video server are also in the works.

“As call load increases, so does the amount of video that officers capture,” said Germain. Records retention laws required video to be stored upwards of 10 years in some cases. The current mobile video server has exceeded all available warranty periods and will become both a cost and management liability if not replaced during the strategic planning period, he said.

Germain said that last year, the department answered 18,156 calls for service.

“The average calls per month (1,513) has generally been increasing in conjunction with the population,” he said. “These calls for service resulted in 989 reports being taken. In the course of those calls, officers made 563 arrests.”

Germain said traffic issues also take up a significant amount of officer resources with 549 motor vehicle crashes during 2017. Officers made 4,699 motor vehicle stops and issued 2,978 traffic summonses.

—Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

 

 

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