September 20, 2012 at 8:04 AM
PATERSON, NJ – Support from state troopers has allowed the Paterson Police Department to revive a special unit that focuses on crime “hot spots,’’ acting Chief William Fraher said at a city budget hearing Wednesday night.
“In April, we changing our policing strategy somewhat,’’ Fraher said.
The chief said the special unit, which had been disbanded in spring of 2011 because of the layoffs, allows his officers to take proactive approach toward preventing crime, instead of simply reacting to crime after it happens. He compared it to the strategy used in New York City in the 1990s after Rudy Giuliani became mayor.
Councilwoman Ruby Cotton told Fraher she has noticed a difference in some of the trouble spots in the 4th Ward, which she represents. At some locations, Cotton said she no longer sees large groups of people hanging around at late hours. The councilwoman urged Fraher to continue the hot spot strategy.
Fraher did not have crime statistics with him at the budget hearing, but he told the council the new approach has produced results. “The numbers aren’t anywhere near where people would think they are,’’ said the chief.
State and local officials have not disclosed exactly how many state troopers have been assigned to Paterson. Officials also would not say how many Paterson officers are working on the hot spot unit.
Fraher said Paterson’s criminals have taken notice of the new strategy. “They’ve altered their behavior,’’ the chief said. “They’re out when we’re not.’’
For example, he said a strong police presence at trouble spots on weekends has resulted in changes in crime patterns in the city. Wednesdays now have the second highest number of shootings in Paterson, after Saturdays, the chief said.
Fraher said the city needs additional police officers to sustain the gains made by the revived hot spot unit. “It’s like wresting a giant,’’ Fraher said. “You may pin him to the mat.” But eventually, the giant will fight his way back up, the chief said.
Paterson currently has an application pending with the state seeking permission to hire another 21 officers to fill vacancies created by retirements, officials said.