Numbers don’t lie: Crime is down

After three years as safety director, Sam DeMaio has lowered crime in the township.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield crime decreased 17 percent last year, according to Safety Director Sam DeMaio in an interview earlier this week.

DeMaio, who began his tenure as head of the Bloomfield Police Department in January 2015, said during the last four years, Part 1 offenses decreased 50 percent in the township. Part 1 offenses are seven in number: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and motor vehicle thief.

He credits the decrease to a philosophy of operating the police department like a business with the bottom line being customer satisfaction. For a law enforcement agency, that means crime reduction, he added.

Accomplishing the recent decreases required changes in the department, he said. These included the use of crime mapping, deployment of forces based on trends, and strategy. There has also been a cultural shift for police.

“There was no measurement of winning or losing or performance,” he said. “We now measure crime on a daily basis.”
Robberies in Bloomfield decreased from 90 in 2014 to 19 robberies last year with only one occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Home burglaries dropped dramatically, from 219 in 2014 to 71 last year.

“Going from an average of 200 home burglaries down to 71 makes me feel really good,” he said. “The men and women in this department should be proud. It’s a testament to following the game plan and the culture.”

Customer satisfaction and crime reduction did not come without a price. A new computer system for the police cost $2.8 million. But DeMaio said the difference it makes is considerable. Now police officers on duty throughout the state can contact each other.

“We use to communicate with the old radio system; copper wire and dead
spots,” he said. “Now, my walkie talkie would work from Parsippany.”

Statistics from 2017 and 2018 for the five remaining Part 1 offenses:
Murder: 0 in 2017, 2 in 2018;
Rape: 0 in 2017, 2 in 2018;
Aggravated assault: 29 in 2017, 29 in 2018;
Theft: 621 in 2017, 488 in 2018;
Motor vehicle theft: 81 in 2017, 88 in 2018;
Total Part 1 crimes: 838 in 2017, 699 in 2018.

Regarding the two murders in Feb. 3, 2018, an East Orange man was found fatally shot on Ampere Parkway near Chester Avenue. On March 12, 2018, a Bloomfield man was found fatally shot on North 17th Street, not far from Chester Avenue. DeMaio said both incidents of rape involved people who knew each other.

In 2018, BPD officers made 15,024 field stops and 13,038 vehicle stops which resulted in 1,509 arrests and 33 citizens complaints.
“If we get one justified complaint, it’s too many,” DeMaio said. “Our complaints against officers has changed dramatically.”
During DeMaio’s first full year as police director, 2015, the number of complaints made by residents was 96. In the subsequent three years, the complaints have been 67 in 2016, 56 in 2017 and 33 last year. There were an additional 5 complaints made anonymously last year.

“We had 33 external complaints in 2018,” he said. “That number use to be in the 80s and 90s. We attribute that to body cameras. The more you work, the more possibility of complaint.”

In the event of a complaint, a BPD board will review recordings from body and patrol car cameras. The history of the officer in question will be reviewed and witnesses to the allegation will be interviewed.

“The majority of complaints are outright false,” DeMaio said. “And we always respond to the complainant.”
Internal complaints, with officers making complaints against officers, in 2015 and 2016, there were 15; in 2017, 25 and in 2018, 24. DeMaio said the increase can be attributed to the disciplinary policies he has implemented.

“When an officer violates policy now, they are held accountable with discipline,” he said.
The department also gets letters from residents with praise for officers. Looking ahead to promoting this positive feedback, a customer satisfaction survey taken will be undertaken. An outside vendor will conduct it and residents with whom the department has already had contact will be the first surveyed. DeMaio said the BPD is in a good place for having this survey.

“We work for the residents of Bloomfield and we may get some valuable information,” he said. “Everything we start we sustain.”

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