Despite recent setbacks, officials striving to keep township safe

IRVINGTON, NJ — Despite recent setbacks in the ongoing struggle to make Irvington safer and cleaner, Mayor Tony Vauss and Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers said they are still winning the war.

And that was never more evident, Vauss and Bowers agreed, than when a major drug bust was executed on Saturday, Oct. 29.

The duo said the Police Division’s Threat Assessment Criminal Intelligence Team and the Special Enforcement Response Team collaborated with state troopers to “execute a finely tuned plan that led to one of the biggest crime busts in the history of Irvington.” The operation led to the confiscation of more than $300,000 in drugs including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, as well as a gun and ammunition and expensive stolen vehicles.

“Five people were arrested,” said Vauss on Wednesday, Nov. 2. “The members of our SERT and TACIT teams, led by Irvington’s public safety director, Tracy Bowers, proved yet again, Irvington is not the place for criminals. This bust was the result of two months of surveillance and planning. We took out a major distribution ring that supplied drugs to Irvington, Newark and North Plainfield.”

According to Bowers, the quantity of drugs seized in the bust is proof they broke up a major distribution ring.

“We confiscated 1,790 grams of cocaine; 1,820 grams of raw heroin; more than 2,500 envelopes of heroin; 3 grams of marijuana; ecstasy tablets; a loaded 9mm gun with ammunition; $12,000 in cash; and a stolen 2016 Mercedes Benz valued at $166,000, as well as a 2014 BMW,” said Bowers on Friday, Nov. 4. “This was a major bust and a clear signal to criminals.”

Vauss said it’s also a sign that all the hard work, planning, diligence, good police work and dedication Bowers has instilled in the Police Division since taking over as director is paying off. He also credited Joseph Santiago, a public safety consultant who was a former police director, for his input as a big reason for the public safety improvements.

“I commend our officers for the great job they did,” said Vauss. “And I remind criminals — coming to Irvington is not a smart move.”

Since he was sworn into office as mayor two years ago, Vauss has made improving public safety a priority in his administration. He revamped the police and fire departments into the new Public Safety Division; appointed the first black fire chief and fire director in town history; made several promotions within the Police Division to fill out the chain of command; negotiated new contracts with the police and fire unions; instituted walking patrols; created a new bicycle patrol; assigned more cops to work as school resource officers; and hired special officers to perform lesser duties such as traffic control and ticketing, in order to free up regular officers to do more real police work, such as protecting and serving the community.

Irvington has had four homicides this year, with three during the month of October. The most recent homicide was Tuesday, Oct. 25, involving Lloyd R. Brummel Jr., 38, of Irvington; it, like the others, is believed to have been a targeted incident, according to the administration.

“We just had No. 4,” said Vauss on Wednesday, Oct. 26. “Yeah, all in October. All targeted.”

Vauss and Bowers said the fact the recent fatalities appear to have been targeted incidents means the shooters likely do not represent an imminent threat to the general public. However, law enforcement is still doing all it can to catch the responsible parties.

“Our fourth homicide was an unfortunate incident, in which the victim was specifically targeted,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Nov. 1. “Through excellent police work, the individuals responsible have been identified and have active warrants and we are eagerly searching to take them into custody. Last year, we had 14 homicides. To date, we only have four, which is a tremendous reduction, as a result of proactive police efforts and the assistance of the community. We are committed to keeping Irvington safe.”