EAST ORANGE, NJ — The new “Drive Right, Be Right” policing campaign was implemented on Wednesday, Oct. 24, in East Orange to help “take back the streets.”
The campaign is “a targeted effort to improve the quality of life throughout the city.” East Orange Mayor Ted Green, Public Safety Liaison Jose Cordero and police Chief Phyllis Bindi agreed it was created as a direct response to more than 1,000 citizen surveys conducted during the past few months.
As mayor-elect, Green promised to make public safety the top priority in his new administration and said the policing campaign is an important part of keeping that promise.
“Public safety remains one of my administration’s top priorities and I commend the great work that has been done in the past few months to curb crime. That’s why we have had a steady decline in crime in 2018,” said Green on Wednesday, Oct. 24. “A stronger police presence, strict enforcement and consistent communication about our efforts are going a long way to making people feel safe. I encourage all residents to take heed to our warnings and follow the campaign’s slogan: ‘Drive Right and Be Right.’”
Green said East Orange’s crime rate has dropped 21 percent overall and 29 percent, with regard to violent crimes, compared to 2017, but he and Cordero agreed that statistics aren’t always important when it comes to fighting crime and changing local perception about public safety. They said improving residents’ perceptions of safety and security require continually identifying the public safety issues that matter most to residents and focusing police efforts on minimizing the negative effects they cause across all of the city’s neighborhoods.
Cordero and Green agreed Drive Right, Be Right is really a throwback to the police work that previously achieved historic reductions in the city’s crime rate when Cordero was the police director in former Mayor Robert Bowser’s administration. Green was a member of City Council at that time and worked to achieve the historic public safety gains for which East Orange was recognized.
“More than a decade ago, there was a time when motorists were afraid to commit traffic infractions while traveling through or driving in East Orange, because they knew there was a good chance that they would get caught,” said Cordero on Wednesday, Oct. 24. “During that same period, potential criminals avoided our city for the exact same reason. We want to rekindle that feeling and make sure that our residents and visitors know that we are doing everything possible to make East Orange safe.”
Bindi wasn’t the police chief at that time, but now that she’s the city’s top cop, she said the department is off to a very good start.
In fact, she said that during the first 21 hours of the Drive Right, Be Right campaign, the East Orange Police Department made nearly 500 motor vehicle stops, issued 398 motor vehicle summonses and made 29 arrests for a variety of traffic, narcotics and other offenses.
“Based on the surveys, a large majority of residents feel relatively safe living and working in East Orange, but traffic safety ranked among the top five concerns for residents,” said Bindi on Wednesday, Oct. 24. “Police engaged in high-visibility crime prevention operations throughout the city, deployed a mobile camera to an area with a high concentration of community complaints and investigated suspicious activities, including aggressive panhandling, loud noise, reckless bike riders and other quality-of-life complaints. Police officers interacted with over 100 citizens and informed them of the nature and purpose of the operation and reinforced awareness of city laws.”
Bindi said the Drive Right, Be Right campaign is a multipronged initiative that includes awareness and education, as much as enforcement. In addition to extra patrols, she said police will conduct a variety of operations and use technology to identify violators and to minimize the number of traffic infractions and quality-of-life concerns that make residents feel unsafe.
“Using insightful and intelligence-led community policing, this campaign comprehensively addresses our citizens’ most pressing concerns, ranging from traffic safety, including pedestrian-crosswalk safety, and aggressive panhandling to juvenile curfew enforcement and other quality-of-life concerns,” said Bindi. “Our goal is not to ticket or arrest people. Our goal is to be responsive to the needs of our residents and reinforce a culture where obeying the law becomes a lifestyle.”
Bindi also said the campaign isn’t the only new policing initiative in the city.
“In 2017, there were 1,927 motor vehicle accidents in East Orange,” said Bindi. “Expanded efforts this year have already resulted in 106 fewer accidents, compared to this time last year. We are hoping that this new campaign, which includes ‘Cops in the Crosswalk’ to improve pedestrian safety, will increase that amount even more. On the first day of the campaign, ‘Cops in the Crosswalk’ yielded a significant amount of motor vehicle stops and summonses.”