IRVINGTON, NJ — Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers wants residents to know there is plenty to look forward to in the New Year.
Bowers cited the decision to assign Detective Marcus Smith to serve as the Police Division’s official “senior cop,” assigning Sgt. Sheyla Marquez-Zepeda to serve as the official “kids cop” and the creation of the Fire and Police Explorers youth group, with the leadership of Fire Division Lt. Danny Cruz, as examples of good changes.
“That’s all good stuff,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Jan. 8. “We also attained a new low in crime stats. We had 222 crimes lower than last year.”
Bowers also said the Public Safety Division and Irvington Police Division have a solid record, when it comes to homicide reduction in town since Mayor Tony Vauss was elected in 2014, despite the homicide on Christmas Eve that pushed the town’s total number for 2018 to five.
“We had five homicides in 2018. In 2017, we had eight. In 2016, we had four,” said Bowers on Wednesday, Jan. 2. “This year, we had an even lower number of crimes than the previous three years, which happened to be the lowest since 1970. That is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Vauss previously said, “All the credit, when it comes to law enforcement, goes to this man here,” referring to Bowers who, in typical fashion, deferred the kudos.
“It’s a little collaboration between me and the mayor,” said Bowers on Friday, Nov. 9, during the mayor’s annual pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Dinner and Turkey Giveaway. “He has a lot of ideas and it’s my job to make those things come true, to actually bring his vision into reality.”
Vauss and Bowers introduced Smith as the “senior cop” at the holiday event.
“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 Tuesday, Jan. 8. “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.”
Vauss and Bowers also introduced Marquez-Zepeda as the new “kids cop” during the township’s annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony and Gift Giveaway in the newly renamed D. Bilal Beasley Square. They said she was “reassigned to the mayor’s detail” because “we believe this is a good thing for the township, especially our children and youth.”
For years prior to her reassignment, Marquez-Zepeda was known for being instrumental in helping organize Irvington Police and Fire division community outreach events and activities, including the annual Halloween Spectacular, National Night Out, the annual Tree-Lighting and Gift Giveaway and others. The mayor and Public Safety director agreed with Marquez-Zepeda that designating her as the town’s official kids cop was the right thing to do.
“Every event that we do is geared to the youth,” said Marquez-Zepeda on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the annual Tree-Lighting and Gift Giveaway. “We want them to have a good experience. We want them have great memories so we do our best to bring that to them. Some of these children this might have been the only gift they can get tonight for Christmas so we fulfilled that.”
Smith echoed her sentiment with regard to his own duties as senior cop.
“I definitely look forward to it,” said Smith on Friday, Nov. 9. “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 also said being the senior cop 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,” said Smith. “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 (and) we talk about it. We have group talks, too. Whatever they need. Like I said, I’m here for them.”
Marquez-Zepeda said the same goes for her, and Bowers agreed with both.
“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 on Tuesday, Jan. 8, “So you have to be well-balanced, mild-mannered and that’s why we selected him. It’s really about putting officers in assignments where they can best serve the community. In Sgt. Marquez-Zepeda’s case, she has always had the temperament to work with kids. She works well with them. You can tell by the way they respond to her with smiles and excitement. So assigning her to a unit where she interacts with kids is a win for the department and the community.”