Atlantic City launches community policing program

Albert Herbert and Jerard Ingenito are two of Atlantic City’s seasoned police officers who will spend most of their on-duty time in community policing.

“We need officers on the street, talking to residents, and getting to know them so that they know us and that we know them,” said Ingenito.

There are two officers for each of Atlantic City’s six wards, including the tourism district and four for homeless outreach. It’s Atlantic City’s Neighborhood Coordination Officer program. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is paying $7.5 million over 5 years for new patrol officers to replace those assigned to the program. It’s part of the ongoing collaboration with the local citizens advisory board and the State Department of Community Affairs.

“People feel better when there’s an officer on the beat. People feel better when officers and community members are solving problems together, and that’s what the NCO program will do,” said Jim Johnson, special counsel to the Governor’s Office on Atlantic City.

Atlantic City police say overall crime is a third of what it was in 2013. From 2017 to last year, violent crime fell by nearly 30% and nonviolent crime dropped by nearly 32%. Police Chief Henry White says the city’s looking to build on that progress.

The officers will focus on quality of life issues and crime trends in the city’s six wards. They will have department-issued cellphones and email addresses so folks living and working in those wards can contact them for nonemergency issues so the officers can take action.

The new program got a big embrace from Atlantic City native Latoya Dunston, who lives in the city’s 2nd Ward.

“Hopefully it’ll achieve a better relationship with the police department,” she said.

Others recall when the city had community policing years ago.

“After a couple months they started to feel good that you were there and they would reach out to you,” said Detective Joseph Corson.

Herbert and Ingenito live in their assigned 6th Ward, which is home to Stockton University’s new campus, revitalization and a community policing welcome from diners at a local restaurant.

“Any kind of extra safety is positive, is going in the right direction. Keeping any neighborhood safe is what we all want and need,” said Atlantic City resident Pat McCormick.

Atlantic City stakeholders say community policing worked two decades ago, so they know this reincarnation is no gamble.