S.E.R.T. takes lead in Operation May Day tactical strikes

IRVINGTON, NJ — Earlier this year, when Mayor Tony Vauss unveiled the Public Safety Department Police Division’s new Special Enforcement Response Team and announced the partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said it was to send a message to criminals and lawbreakers everywhere.

“I want to make it clear to everyone that we will no longer tolerate our residents living in fear,” said Vauss on Thursday, Jan. 28, during his annual State of the Township Address. “If you’re planning on committing a crime in Irvington, your days are numbered. The S.E.R.T. team is coming for you, if you mess up.”

On Friday, May 6, Vauss and Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers announced the results of Operation May Day — a law enforcement initiative — and broadcast the news that the S.E.R.T. team had delivered the mayor’s message loud and clear in neighboring Hillside Township. Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson was also at the press conference in Council Chambers, along with her new police chief, to drive home the message about new public safety standards and cooperation across municipal borders.

“Irvington’s police department worked with their counterparts in Hillside and other law enforcement agencies from municipalities, the state and federal levels to make it clear, once again, that crime will not be tolerated in Irvington,” said Vauss on Thursday, May 5. “Criminals know this: Irvington is not where you want to do your crimes.”

According to Vauss and Bowers, Operation May Day was a joint law enforcement initiative that included several crime-fighting entities from Irvington, Hillside, Newark, Maplewood, Essex County, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Homeland Security, N.J. State Police, Bloomfield, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. The initiative was “a major sting,” wherein the combined law enforcement agencies undertook an investigation that resulted in the court issuing seven search warrants.

Vauss said those search warrants were used to coordinate tactical deployments beginning at 7 a.m. at premises in Irvington, Hillside, Perth Amboy and Newark, including a private home at 1561 Wyndmoor Ave. in Hillside. He said the searches resulted in the confiscation of $4,062 in cash, two vehicles, four handguns and “several controlled dangerous substances including crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana and prescription pills.”

“Eleven people were arrested in the sting, including several gang members and drug distributors,” Vauss said.

Bowers said Operation May Day showed that various law enforcement agencies can work together to protect and serve the public across geographic and jurisdictional boundaries. He also said it’s just the beginning of the kind of cooperation everyone can expect going forward.

“Operation May Day is our response to distress many citizens have expressed about gang activity in our town,” said Bowers. “This operation included our (Threat Assessment Criminal Intelligence Team), S.E.R.T. and (Selected Area Field Enforcement) teams. This was part of our 2016 Summer Crime Initiative. It was a tremendous success and is only the beginning.”