IRVINGTON, NJ — Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers and Mayor Tony Vauss are crediting reforms within the Irvington Police Division for the township’s recent crime rate decrease.
“The mayor and the Police Department are committed to ridding our township of those individuals who engage in drug dealing as sellers and buyers,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Nov. 8. “Our Narcotics and Intelligence Unit is among the finest in the state. You see the mayor’s Facebook page and pictures of all the proceeds confiscated in our drug busts.”
As good as Irvington’s recent public safety gains might seem, Bowers said statistics don’t lie. The goal, he said, is to deter criminals from coming to town to commit crimes in the first place.
“If I was involved in this type of activity, I would be looking for another legal business to get into, because we are coming to arrest you at some point for selling and buying drugs,” said Bowers. “I commend the Police Department for their hard work and dedication.”
Vauss said Irvington wants criminals and potential offenders who are considering committing a crime in town to understand “Irvington is not where you want to do your crimes.” And he credited the township’s recent partnership with the FBI, as well as the creation of the new Special Enforcement Response Team with helping to drive that point home to criminals.
Vauss used his annual State of the Township Address at Christian Pentecostal Church on Clinton Avenue in January as a platform to announce Irvington’s new partnership with the FBI, introducing Brad Cohen, the special agent in charge and assistant director of the FBI’s Newark office.
“Our partnership with the feds is ongoing,” said Vauss on Tuesday, Nov. 8. “How it works is we also give them one of our guys to work with them, to better form a collaboration. We have the stats from December and January and we made 187 arrests in December and 209 in January. We got almost 10 guns, from shotguns to Uzis.’”
Cohen said the FBI’s many resources are now available to Vauss and Irvington, including 56 field officers in the continental United States, including the Newark office. According to Vauss, the SERT’s job is designated through the Office of the Mayor to clean up the streets by handling warrants, conducting investigations, clearing street corners, clearing out drug areas and providing an overall rapid response to whatever situations arise in town.
Vauss and Bowers are particularly proud of the recent dramatic decrease in homicides in town, despite the fact that Irvington recently suffered three in a row, pushing the total this year to four.
“We have the stats from 2000 all the way to now,” said Vauss on Tuesday, Nov. 15. “We were as high as 30 within that time frame — 30, 26, 25 in back-to-back years. Even my first year, when we got it down to 14, was tremendous from the year before.”
Statistics, however, can be deceiving, Vauss said, so he and Bowers rely on feedback from the community to let them know if they are doing a good job at making Irvington safer and cleaner.
“It you notice from my full years, 2015 to 2016, our numbers have been incredible,” said Vauss. “The hardest part is, how do you duplicate that next year? Right now, I’m beating my own best. Now we’re at four; zero for the summer, with three of them in October. We went all the way to October with one homicide. We went 10 months with less homicides than Livingston. They had two, we had one.”
Since being sworn into office as mayor two years ago, Vauss has made improving public safety a priority in his administration. He revamped the Irvington 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 police officers 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, protecting and serving the community and taxpayers.
However, Irvington suffered the second homicide of the year Sunday, Oct. 9, at the Crescent Lane section of the Irvington Housing Authority complex on Union Avenue, when Lawrence W. Bennett, 38, was shot and killed during an incident inside one of the apartments. The third homicide occurred Thursday, Oct. 13, on Montgomery Street, when Ronald Mayweather, 32, was shot and killed in what Vauss and Bowers said was a targeted killing.
The fourth homicide on Tuesday, Oct. 25, involving Lloyd R. Brummel Jr., 38, of Irvington, is believed to have been a targeted incident, too.
“We just had No. 4,” said Vauss on Tuesday, Oct. 25. “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 immediate threat to the general public, but they said that doesn’t mean law enforcement is not doing everything it can to catch whoever’s responsible for the latest homicides in town.
“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.”