ATLANTIC CITY — Boardwalk merchants came to a Friday morning Clean and Safe Atlantic City meeting to demand more police patrols and lighting on the boardwalk and around the parking lots behind their stores.
“The boardwalk is the backbone of tourists,” Atlantic City Merchants Association president Amer Kashmiri said. “It’s such a shame in the afternoon at 1 p.m. that tourists ask, ‘Is it safe to walk on the boardwalk?'”
Acting Police Chief James Sarkos – who said he was recently told by the state’s Civil Service Commission that he would be the next chief – said changes are coming to the police department in the city that will help improve safety on the boardwalk, Atlantic Avenue and in the neighbourhoods.
The city just learned it will receive a multi-year, $1.875 million grant from the federal Department of Justice to fund 15 additional full-time police officers, Sarkos said.
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“This grant will be rolled out in the near future. It will take a few months,” Sarkos said. “We hope by the summer to have a non-commissioned officer (district coordination officer) shift from 4 p.m. to midnight” to supplement the day shift that is currently operating, he said.
Homeless and mentally ill people remain on the promenade, Kashmiri said, and groups of miners harass shop owners.
“Our big problem is the lack of lights,” said Muhammed Usman, owner of Moon Traders, a gift shop that was robbed recently in the 1600 block on the promenade.
Usman said lighting should be installed behind Boardwalk stores to prevent thieves from having the time and access to enter their stores through backdoors.
“In one month, four to five stores (Boardwalk) were robbed,” Usman said.
This was the 13th Clean and Safe meeting, said city council vice-chairman Kaleem Shabazz, organizer of the committee. The group remains focused on getting help for people with mental health issues and the homeless, solving persistent lighting problems and eliminating repeat quality of life offenders such as shoplifters. the display.
The federal grant for more officers comes on top of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority setting aside $1.5 million this week to continue funding police in the tourist district.
It will now fund 30 Class II police officers and five full-time officers, Sarkos said.
Class II Special Constables exercise full police powers, carry a firearm while on duty, and work up to 20 hours a week.
The department is still working to choose the best new cameras to buy with $5 million in additional state aid, he said. And new license plate readers are being installed at all city entrances and exits, and will soon be plugged in and functional, Sarkos said.
Resorts Casino Hotel president and CEO Mark Giannantonio, who is also president of the New Jersey Casino Association, said there was no time to waste on making the city cleaner and safer.
There are significant challenges in the market and the economy is already entering a recession that is going to be deep, Giannantonio said.
“We already feel it in October. Everyone needs to be healthy here, including small businesses,” he said.
Atlantic City needs to be more competitive with other gambling and tourist destinations, which means lighting, cleanliness and safety issues need to be resolved “once and for all,” Giannantonio said.
“Las Vegas is the busiest place on the planet right now,” Giannantonio said. “Clearly we will and can aspire to be more like Las Vegas in a smaller footprint, and we must.”
Later Friday afternoon, 13 former special constables were sworn in as full-time officers to help fill current vacancies.
That brings the total number of full-time officers to 270 from 257, Sarkos said.
“We are now down to four of our authorized total of 274,” Sarkos said, adding that the department is losing officers to other jurisdictions that pay more.
Special officers must work for a year before they can be hired full-time, Sarkos said.
JOURNALIST: Michelle Brunetti