PATERSON — In an effort to halt the spike in shootings, city police last weekend tried a tactic they hadn’t used since 2019: a so-called special operations detail that increased the number of cops patrolling city streets on weekend nights.
The special detail resulted in 10 arrests, the seizure of two guns and 986 packets of heroin and 349 traffic tickets.
Meanwhile, city officials gathered on Monday to give the oath of office to Paterson’s latest group of police officers, which the mayor touted as the largest training class in more than a decade. Those 27 recruits — if they make it through about five months of training at the police academy — could bring Paterson’s force up to its maximum number of 419 officers for the first time in several years.
But completing the academy training is never a sure thing. In Paterson’s last class of 16 police recruits, only seven successfully finished.
Mayor Andre Sayegh talked about the city’s need for more cops on Saturday night as he recorded a video for social media about the weekend’s special operation detail. He noted that Paterson laid off 125 officers in 2011. Before the layoffs, Paterson had 500 police officers.
“Unfortunately, the department has never gotten back to where it once was,” Sayegh said in the video.
After the layoffs, the state revised the table of organization for the Paterson’s Police Department, setting the maximum number of cops the city could have at 419, officials said. Rarely in the past 10 years has the city come close to having the full 419. Local law enforcement officials say Paterson has fewer cops per resident compared with other New Jersey cities.
Sayegh said he has not asked the state to increase Paterson’s police hiring limit. “First, I want to get to 419,” the mayor said.
During Monday morning’s ceremony, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. talked about the 2011 layoffs. “It wasn’t such a good thing to do,” said Pascrell, who was mayor of Paterson in the 1990s. “The city paid for it. The residents paid for it.”
During the five years after the police layoffs, Paterson endured a 30% increase in homicides. But the surge in shootings in 2020 and 2021 has surpassed anything Paterson has encountered in more than a decade.
Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said this past weekend’s special operations detail represented the latest adjustment in tactics by the Paterson Police Department. “We doing everything possible to make sure we address this spike that has happened both nationally and statewide,” Speziale said.
As part of the operation, police officers focus on motor vehicle violations and make numerous traffic stops, law enforcement officials said. That tactic serves as a deterrent for criminals who might be planning one of the drive-by shootings all too common in Paterson, police said. Shooters in the city often travel by car, police said.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.
Email: [email protected]m