|TRENTON – Citing the wounding of a 9-year-old girl who was caught in a hail of gunfire on Bellevue Avenue on Monday and the recent shooting at Galilee Baptist Church at the funeral of a murdered gang member, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman today announced that the State Police and numerous federal, state, county and local law enforcement partners are being deployed at the highest levels to date to assist the Trenton Police Department and prevent further violence as summer approaches.
The ramp-up in boots on the ground under the ongoing TIDE initiative began last month, but Hoffman said high-visibility patrols and other operations will raise the profile of these deployments in the days ahead. The total current deployment of troopers and other additional law enforcement personnel assisting the Trenton Police Department under TIDE is nearly double the level deployed at the peak of the TIDE surge last year, which began in mid-August and was highly successful in reducing shootings and murders.
“We’re not going to tolerate having innocent children shot in broad daylight after school or gang members shooting up each other’s funerals,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “If the gangsters and drug dealers of Trenton think nothing of cutting down a child with their indiscriminate gunfire, they’d better think about the full force of the law bearing down on them. We’re standing strong with the people of Trenton this summer.”
The new deployments include three Crime Suppression Units to target high-crime areas, consisting of personnel from multiple agencies, including the State Police, Trenton Police Department, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and Mercer County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, the new deployments include a newly formed Warrant Squad – led by the State Police and including members of each of those agencies – that will focus on arresting individuals with outstanding warrants and detainers. Statistics show that, in the vast majority of shootings in Trenton, either the shooter or the victim, or both, are wanted on outstanding criminal warrants. Taking warrant offenders off of the street is a proven way to improve public safety. The Warrant Squad will work collaboratively with the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, which focuses on detaining the most violent offenders wanted by law enforcement. Trenton currently has several thousand open criminal warrants.
The Crime Suppression Units will work in an integrated fashion with the Trenton Police Department’s IMPAACT Unit to ensure sharing of critical intelligence and leveraging of additional law enforcement personnel to provide the most effective coverage of crime hot spots in Trenton. The New Jersey State Police Tactical Patrol Unit also will continue to aid in violence suppression as it has done since the launch of TIDE last year.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman made the announcement at the Hughes Justice Complex with Lt. Colonel Ed Cetnar, Deputy Superintendent of Field Operations for the State Police, Major Christian Shulz, Commander of the State Police Regional Operation Intelligence Center, Capt. Ron Hampton of the State Police Investigations Unit, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., First Assistant Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr., Trenton Detective Alexis Durlacher, Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, Mercer County Sheriff John Kemler, State Parole Board Director Leonard Ward, Director Michael Halfacre of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Deputy U.S. Attorney Nelson S. Thayer Jr., Supervisory Special Agent Ludmila Reigel of the FBI Newark Division, Acting Resident Agent in Charge Sam Trotman of the Camden Office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Belsky of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Marshal of the District of New Jersey Juan Mattos Jr., and Group Supervisor John Fitch of ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
“The TIDE-TAG strategy is a sound one that we have now spread to Newark. By growing these cooperative law enforcement and prosecution efforts, and with the cooperation of the residents, we hope to diminish the destructive wave of violence that has marred our capital city,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
“We are working together at every level to stand strong and fight for the city of Trenton,” said Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. “My office will continue to share its resources and manpower in order to remain aggressive in our collaborative efforts to reduce crime and protect the community.”
“The Trenton Police Department has been working diligently with the Attorney General’s Office, with our federal, state, county and local partners, and with the community to create law enforcement initiatives to reduce crime, improve the quality of life in Trenton, and make our city safer,” said Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr. “While we are appreciative of the assistance from our law enforcement partners, we again call upon the community, our strongest ally, for their ongoing cooperation and support. We need you to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
On August 15, 2013, Acting Attorney General Hoffman announced the launch of the TIDE-TAG initiative, which deployed more law enforcement personnel to suppress shootings in the most violent neighborhoods of Trenton, while focusing efforts on arresting and aggressively prosecuting criminals who carry guns in public. Specifically, TIDE is an intelligence-driven surge in deployments led by the State Police – supplemented by other state, county, federal and local personnel – working in an integrated fashion with the Trenton Police Department. TAG is a new arrest and prosecution strategy that brings New Jersey’s tough gun laws to bear on gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders who carry guns in public, requiring that those found in possession of a gun face at least 3 ½ years in state prison without possibility of parole if they plead guilty, and up to 10 years if convicted at trial.
Since TIDE-TAG began, the partnering agencies have made 3,223 arrests and have seized and recovered 177 guns. In addition, hundreds of “field contacts” have been made between officers and individuals on the streets. Such high-volume contacts discourage offenders from carrying guns. Dual ad campaigns funded by the Attorney General’s Office urged the public to report armed offenders to the Trenton Police Hotline 609-989-3663, while warning offenders of the harsh penalties they face. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has already charged 116 TAG cases, 60 of which have been indicted. They obtained two guilty pleas calling for seven years in state prison with 3 ½ years of parole ineligibility.
TIDE-TAG proved highly successful in stemming the tide of violence in the capital city. Trenton had experienced 29 murders in the first 7 ½ months of 2013, before the initiative was launched in August. But in the roughly two months after TIDE-TAG was launched, shootings dropped by half, and only eight additional homicides occurred during the remainder of 2013, including a period between late August and mid-November when no gun homicides occurred. In the six months after TIDE-TAG was launched in Trenton, the number of people shot decreased by 38 percent and the number of gun homicides decreased by one-third compared to the six months leading up to the program’s launch.
The TIDE partners maintained a continued presence in Trenton through the winter months, when violence typically declines significantly. The State Police and Trenton Police Department seized 98 guns from Jan. 1 through April 30 of this year, nearly double the 51 guns they seized during those months in 2013. The partners commenced ramping up deployments to unprecedented levels after shootings spiked in April, including the shooting that wounded three persons at the Galilee Baptist Church on April 22 at the funeral of murdered gang member, Cagney Roberts, 19.
While aggressive law enforcement efforts have continued, the Attorney General’s Office and key partners in law enforcement, higher education and the community also have moved forward with implementation of a new long-term, multi-disciplinary strategy, the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy (“TVRS”), which targets the roots of violence in Trenton by offering social services and training to offenders and other at-risk individuals who are prepared to turn away from a life of crime.
On April 29, leaders of TVRS conducted the first “call-in” to reach targeted offenders with the program’s message of opportunity. The call-in was conducted at Galilee Baptist Church, the location where the funeral shooting occurred just one week earlier. Leaders declined to move the planned location for the event after that act of violence, sending a clear message that they would not be intimidated or deterred. The Attorney General’s Office has provided $1.1 million to fund TVRS for the next three years. TVRS was developed through a collaboration involving the Attorney General’s Office, the Trenton Police Department, The College of New Jersey and Rutgers University-Camden.