IRVINGTON, NJ — When it comes to innovative policing tactics and strategy, the Irvington Public Safety Division’s senior police officers do exactly what that name implies — focus on crime and issues related to the township’s senior citizens.
“This is our guard, too,” said Irvington Senior Citizens Center manager Gloria Chisun on Friday, Nov. 9, during Mayor Tony Vauss’ annual pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Dinner and Turkey Giveaway at the Irvington Senior Citizens Center on Springfield Avenue. “He keeps us safe.”
Chisun was referring to Detective Marcus Smith, the Irvington police officer who has specifically been assigned as a liaison to address public safety issues from the township’s senior citizens.
“What happens is Detective Smith works in the Office of the Mayor, so he handles all community complaints, not just seniors. Any community complaints, he personally handles those and deals with those folks, one on one,” said Vauss on Friday, Nov. 9. “When you call the cops for an emergency, they say, ‘We want you to dial 9-1-1; we want you to get the service you need.’ But if there’s other concerns that you have, you’ll reach Detective Smith. He will come out, get your information, follow up and make sure you get the proper services that you need.”
Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers said the decision to assign Smith to specifically deal with non-life threatening community issues and senior citizens’ complaints was the result of a collaboration between himself and Vauss.
“It’s a little collaboration between me and the mayor,” explained Bowers on Friday, Nov. 9. “He has a lot of ideas and it’s my job to make those things come true. To actually bring his vision into reality.”
But Vauss deferred all credit for the Irvington Police Department’s senior police officer to Bowers.
“All the credit, when it comes to law enforcement, goes to this man here,” said Vauss, gesturing toward Bowers. “He’s the reason our township is safer. He’s the reason why crime is down. And that’s why he’s the leader of our Public Safety Department.”
Bowers said assigning Smith to handle community issues and seniors’ concerns was an attempt to streamline the way the Irvington Police Department handles calls for help and service from the entire township community.
“It’s streamlined, so that way, the cops on the streets handle the emergency phone calls,” said Bowers. “If the seniors call the police, of course we’ll come, but there’s a stacked screen; there’s a process you have to go through. But here it’s streamlined. Detective Smith, he comes right out.”
Vauss said Smith’s current assignment also helps the Irvington Police Department prioritize calls from the general public for service.
“Sometimes they call Detective Smith because there’s a cat stuck in a tree,” said Vauss. “So we don’t want to take the cops off the street because there’s a cat stuck in a tree. That’s his job, to take care of the cat stuck in the tree.”
Both Vauss and Bowers said Smith is the right man to serve in this role.
“It’s a special type of temperament that you have to have, when you work with kids and when you work with seniors,” said Bowers. “So you have to be well-balanced, mild-mannered and that’s why we selected him.”
But Bowers and Vauss said Smith doesn’t get a special badge.
“He does have a special badge. It’s right there and it says detective,” said Vauss. “He’s actually a 23-year veteran of the Police Department. He comes here, he talks to the seniors and he has monthly meetings.”
Smith said he loves his job being Irvington’s senior police officer and he takes his responsibilities very seriously.
“I definitely look forward to it. I think that it’s not only an honor, but it’s something I really enjoy to do. So for me, when I come out to work, it’s really not work. I’m just doing what I love to do.”
Smith said being the senior police officer really is serious business.
“I’m actually the personal detective for all our seniors. I come by, make sure that most of their needs are taken care of,” Smith said. “I have monthly meetings, where I provide them with crime-prevention tips, I provide them with tips for safety, all kinds of things. So at least once a month I’m here talking to the seniors. Any issues that they have we’re talking about it. They pull me to the side sometimes we talk about it. We have group talks too. Whatever they need. Like I said, I’m here for them.”
Chisun said she and her seniors know that they can count on Smith and they appreciate him being assigned as their very own senior police officer.
“They will call him, too,” said Chisun. “And tell him ‘Get over here.’ And he comes.”