Irvington police investigate second homicide of 2016

IRVINGTON, NJ — The township recorded its second homicide of 2016 on Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Crescent Lane section of the Irvington Housing Authority complex on Union Avenue.

“We have a homicide on Crescent Lane inside an apartment by someone we believe to be a friend of the victims,” said Mayor Tony Vauss on Monday, Oct. 10. “No comment as of yet. That investigation is ongoing.”

On Monday, Oct. 10, acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Irvington Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers announced that authorities are investigating an incident in which a male was fatally shot in Irvington late at night on Sunday, Oct. 9.

“At approximately 10:15 p.m., Irvington police officers responded to an apartment on Crescent Lane on a report of a shooting,” said Murray on Monday, Oct. 10. “The arriving officers located an unresponsive male suffering from an apparent gunshot wound.”

According to Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly, of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit, “The victim, who has been identified as Lawrence W. Bennett, age 38, of Irvington, was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:35 p.m.”

Murray and Bowers said the incident is being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Task Force and the Irvington Police Department.

“The investigation is active and ongoing at this time,” said Fennelly on Monday, Oct. 10.

Vauss said he looks forward to a swift resolution of the investigation of the township’s second homicide of the year.

“We have two homicides and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s two homicides too many,” the mayor said. “We will be working around the clock to apprehend the suspect or suspects involved.”

The second homicide of the year came as a surprise to some in town, especially since it occurred at Crescent Lane. Since Vauss was sworn into office in 2014, his motto has been “keeping Irvington clean and safe,” and along with Bowers and former police Chief Michael Chase, he launched Operation Silencer, which effectively brought an end to many crime and drug-related issues in the Irvington Housing Authority in general, and Crescent Lane in particular, which had existed for years during previous administrations.

“Everyone was complaining about all the shootings and other unwanted activities over there at Crescent Lane, so we had Operation Silencer, to silence the shootings and whatever else was going on there,” Chase said Monday, Oct. 10. “We went in there and gathered intelligence first; went to the Housing Authority and got a list of all the problem tenants. And then we went at them.”

Operation Silencer, coupled with follow-up deployments and policing strategies by Bowers and Chase on Vauss’ orders, took Crescent Lane off the Irvington Police Department’s list of “hot spots” in town, until Sunday, Oct. 9. Vauss credits Bowers’ leadership with former Irvington Police Director Joseph Santiago’s support as the decisive factor in calming the once-troubled area.

Bowers said the recent successes in reducing the township’s crime rate are the result of Vauss making public safety a priority in his administration.

“It’s a culmination of everybody working together here in Irvington, not only the police officers but a whole entourage of public works working together — the health department working together, the housing department working together and, most of all, it’s the community giving us feedback on the problems that they have in their area, which gives us a tremendous chance to do our job by responding to those types of crimes,” said Bowers on Friday, Sept. 9.

“Don’t forget, we have a shared services agreement with the Housing Authority, where we have our cops there during those peak hours we think, based upon data, that crime is going to happen. So we have boots on the ground there and, most times, people are not going to commit crimes where police are present.”

Chase, who is no longer employed by the Irvington Police Department, after the position of chief of police was abolished by the installation of the new Irvington Public Safety Department, agreed with Bowers.

“I always said that homicides are one of the most notoriously difficult crimes to prevent, because police officers can’t be everywhere at once.” Chase said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Prosecutor’s tip line at 877-847-7432.