ATLANTIC CITY — The recent promotion of 20 full-time Class II officers brings the city’s police department back to full strength just in time for the busy tourist season.
The promotions bring the total number of officers in the department to 267, said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the city’s day-to-day operation.
“Promoting 20 Class II officers to full-time officers will replace officers lost to attrition,” Ryan said. “That’s normal practice for a police department the size of Atlantic City.”
The number of agents in the department is similar to what the department had in 1978, the year casino gambling came to the station.
“These 20 young men and women are a welcome addition to the Atlantic City Police Department,” Acting Officer in Charge James Sarkos said after the officers’ swearing-in ceremony. “I’m confident they will have impactful, meaningful and rewarding careers here in our great city.”
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Over the years, public safety and the city’s police staffing have been a hot issue.
Over the past decade, spending on police salaries and wages has dropped by about $12 million. In 2012, Atlantic City spent more than $37.2 million on police salaries and wages, that number fell to $19.9 million three years later as the city’s financial situation deteriorated, according to city budget records.
In 2022, the city is expected to spend about $25.9 million on police salaries and wages, according to the city’s proposed budget.
City finances were such a problem that the state resumed day-to-day operations in November 2016. Even before the then-governor took control of the state. Chris Christie said the city’s contracts with unions included “exorbitant wages and benefits out of control.” At one point, the state sought to cut 250 jobs and impose a new salary cap on police salaries.
Summer represents a busy time for the resort as it plans to host several high-profile events, including the NAACP National Convention and two beach music festivals.
The increase is not related to the upcoming summer season or events, which are expected to draw thousands to the area and generate millions of dollars in revenue.
“We are confident that our police department can handle increased summer crowds in Atlantic City using similar measures that have worked effectively over the years,” said city spokesman Andrew Kramer. “For example, we generally assign more officers to the parkway during the summer season, when we tend to see the biggest crowds. That won’t change this summer. The public is in good hands. »
Meet AC, the resort’s convention and business authority, said public safety is extremely important when it comes to attracting convention business to the resort and vacationers.
“The safety of our guests is extremely important to Meet AC,” said Larry Sieg, the organization’s president and CEO. “Meet AC and its partners meet regularly with the city and police to review upcoming events that may require a greater security presence due to the large number of people in attendance.”
Visitors to the station say they feel “mostly safe”, but agree a greater police presence couldn’t hurt.
New York’s Evelyn Fernandez, who has visited the resort frequently for 22 years, thinks more security is a good idea.
“You would be able to hire maybe not even police, but private security to just walk the boardwalk,” said Fernandez, 66, who sat on the boardwalk one recent spring day. “It doesn’t have to be police all the time.”
Private security, she added, could help relieve City Police of Boardwalk duties, making them available to solve problems in other parts of the city.
Although she generally felt safe, she said she wouldn’t walk the boardwalk at certain times, such as early in the morning when she noticed fewer police patrolling the area.
“That’s why I think private security would be great,” Fernandez said.
William Champion, 59, says he ventures into the city almost daily from Egg Harbor Township. After countless visits, the US Navy veteran said he saw crimes committed by teenagers and young adults.
“If hiring more full-time police officers isn’t an option, getting tougher on rambunctious kids should be,” Champion said.
“They need to start enforcing a curfew again,” Champion said as he took in the view on Kennedy Plaza across from Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. “If you’re under 21 after a while, get off the streets.”
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