Friday, February 10, 2012

Police Unions: The Great Citizens, Taxpayers, Business Owners and Visitors of Hoboken

Vince Lombardi, PBA President & Edmond Drishti, PSOA President Crime in Hoboken - Police Union Call for Action announce:

Sgt. Ed Drishti and Detective Vince Lombardi (r)

Our City is flanked by urban centers with volatile crime concerns of their own. Due to our unique geographic location, Hoboken tends to act as a quasi-catch basin for crime and predators. When a society experiences sustained economic recession, a lack of proactive police presence, violent and nonviolent crime will almost always increase and spread like a cancer. It is an indisputable fact that lawlessness, anti-social behavior and criminality has increased in our community. Anyone who has monitored local and regional media or personally observed, been victimized or shared stories of the aforementioned would have to agree. We have on many occasions stressed the need for increased police personnel to this administration. However, our pleas fall on deaf or dismissive ears.

In 2010, we strongly advocated and rallied concerned citizens against a proposed plan to lay off 18 police officers and demote of 19 supervisors. Had this City Administration’s plan of action come to pass, and 18 officers fired, it would have more severely impacted our ability to provide adequate protection to our community. Our police department has since lost, through retirements, a number of police officers nearly equal to those which were targeted for termination, without being replenished, in addition to the retirements of senior pay grade captains, lieutenants and sergeants. Although all the junior pay grade supervisors who were unfairly demoted have since been re- promoted, there are still vacancies in the supervisory ranks. The vacancies created have NOT been filled and there appears no relief in sight. The members of the police department have been demoralized, and disenfranchised by the city’s actions and present inaction.

To make matters worse, crime has increased, contrary to Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s recent ‘State of the City’ address, in which she craftily reports crime is down by 16%! Actually, the percentage fact reported was a ruse cherry-picked from a more inclusive ‘City of Hoboken [2010 & 2011] Crime Comparison’ report. 

In this same report, which the Mayor used to state the “16%” reduction in crime, it clearly shows that crime has increased. The Mayor falls short of mentioning in her ‘State of the City Address’ that the 16% figure is actually the ‘Crime Rate [per 1000]’ census population percentile calculation and not the complete assessment of crime in our city.

On the actual comprehensive ‘City of Hoboken Crime Comparison’ document [which is public information] the Mayor chose not to mention that ‘Violent Crime Rate’ has increased by 20%, and theoverall‘CrimeIndex’alsoincreasedby4.1%. Asamatteroffact,tobeclear:Rapeincreased by 25%, Robbery increased by 88%, Aggravated Assault increased by 36%, Burglary increased by 3.6% and Motor Vehicle Theft increased by 21%. VIOLENT CRIME in our City has increased by 50% and the VIOLENT CRIME RATE [per 1000] also increased by 20%. If this administration elects to use crime stats, then we strongly suggest that the Mayor or her Public Safety Director reveal all the facts to the public.

Your safety is of chief concern to us as well as your right to know the complete truth in our crime statistics. In March of 2011, the police unions reached common ground with the City and settled our labor contracts which collectively included substantial immediate and significant future cost savings to taxpayers of Hoboken. Since 2008, 33 senior top-pay police officers and supervisors have retired yielding approximately $3.8 million in raw salary savings alone.

The city is also being funded directly from the federal government approximately $540,000 annually to pay the salaries of police officers assigned exclusively to patrol the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) properties. Presently, the city has 8 officers and 3 supervisors to this task. However, because of serious staffing level shortages on other shifts responsible for city-wide policing, the city may very well have to remove some or all of these officers from HHA patrol.

The mayor consistently states, “...public safety is my top priority.” However, the city has not hired full-time replacement police officers and even cut police services. 

The Mayor and Public Safety Director seem to be only concerned about saving money, and refuse to hire replacement officers or fill supervisor staffing vacancies. As a consequence to these cuts and staffing deficiencies, we no longer have a ‘Community Policing Bureau’ a specialized unit to educate citizens in crime prevention, exclusively address and correct quality of life concerns and help organize ‘Block Watch Programs, while providing much needed walking and bicycle patrols. 

We have no officers in our schools protecting your children and providing D.A.R.E (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) or G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education And Training) at a time when juvenile delinquency in our schools has increased. We only have a one-man ‘Alcohol, Beverage Control & Enforcement Bureau’ to police over 120 liquor licensed establishments, and a depleted and overburdened Traffic Enforcement Bureau. The last time the city hired new officers was in February of 2008 and we are in dire and desperate need of new officers.

Presently, there are hundreds of fully trained police officers who have been laid-off throughout the state that could quickly be hired to fill our vacancies and a standing civil service list of new prospective applicants in wait.  However, time is passing us by and our community is in jeopardy of continued increases in crime and diminished quality of life each day this administration drags its feet.

The Hoboken Police Department is at its lowest staffing levels since 1995 and at a time when 50,000 residents pack our mile square city and tens of thousands more visit and commute regularly. At the behest of the newly appointed public safety director, we have been reduced to a purely reactive police force for the purpose of protecting and preserving a budget bottom line. We strongly challenge this purely political philosophy because the public safety must be the priority. It is our opinion that Public Safety Director Jon L. Tooke has changed the departments present staffing to potentially dangerous levels especially on the day and midnight shifts.
In our opinion, Director Tooke’s ‘police management text-book style’ staffing and Department re- organization policy approach fails to work but has also resulted in delays in response time, unbalanced and inadequate shift staffing, officer fatigue and frustration with vacation time being denied and heavy service call and case management due to ‘man-power’ shortages because overtime has been highly discouraged or totally disallowed.

Presently, we are staffed with ONLY 89 police officers [to police an entire City 24-7, 365 days a year], 26 sergeants, 12 lieutenants, 2 captains and 1 chief. Even more alarming is the reality, of which the city has been made well aware, is that 27 veteran officers will be eligible to retire in 2013. And, if all retire [as expected and anticipated] without pre-replacement officers, our department will be reduced by 21% of its current operating strength! In 2011, the police department responded to 58,335 service calls which included 1,224 adult arrests and 60 juvenile custodial arrests.

Again, the City seems to be focused on only providing police on the cheap! Their plan is to hire seasonal part-time Special Police Officers like Jersey shore communities. Part-time/seasonal officers are not the answer and definitely NOT the solution to our public safety problems or staffing needs; that is pure political window dressing.

We implore Mayor Zimmer to act swiftly and authorize the hiring of a minimum of 15 full time police officers to plug the gap in our city’s primary line of defense and public safety preparedness with a focus on restoring those specialized units that were eliminated. The projected cost, including initial salary and benefits for these officers would be approximately $800,000 in the first year with the taxpayers still realizing a $3 million net savings from attrition. The incremental annual cost increases of these officers as they move up the salary guide would always be balanced via retirement of higher salaried employees in the ordinary course.

We call upon the City to act quickly and decisively to address these vital staffing needs. What little ground we hold in our war on crime and anti-social anarchy hangs in the balance. Give us the help we need to improve services, re-establish our omnipresence, take back ground lost and push the “barbarians back beyond the gates!” It’s that elementary.

Hoboken PBA & PSOA Crime Data

To the citizens of Hoboken, we urge that you contact Mayor Dawn Zimmer, your elected City Council representatives and Public Safety Director Jon L. Tooke and voice your concern and demand action and the whole truth.

Respectfully yours,
Vincent T. Lombardi, President
Hoboken Policemen’s Benevolent Association

Edmond Drishti, President
Hoboken Police Superior Officer’s Association 

Talking Ed Note: The City's response follows below

City: Police unions incorrect with drop in overall crime, 16% decrease overall is accurate

City of Hoboken announces:

Statement from Mayor Zimmer, Chief Falco, and Director Tooke

We are committed to implementing every strategy and resource possible to protect our community.

While some categories of offenses have gone down and some categories have gone up, including reported sexual assaults which occurred disproportionality on the weekend of our St. Patrick’s Day parade, overall crime in Hoboken is down significantly. According to Uniform Crime Reports and Hoboken Police Department data, there were a total of 1,260 reported crimes in 2009, 1135 in 2010, and 1,062 in 2011 - a decrease of 15.7 percent in two years. The number of calls for service to the Police Department dropped from 63,009 in 2010 to 58,185 in 2011, a decrease of 7.7 percent.

While overall crime has been reduced, even one crime is one too many, and we will continue to do everything to keep our community safe. Next week we look forward to announcing a new initiative to protect our residents and visitors.

Talking Ed Note: MSV will print the police unions letter with their statement too.

Hoboken411 published these numbers for 2010 (left) and 2011 (right).

What stands out immediately is the difference in the official crime figures total for 2010 and 2011.
The City statement says 1135 in 2010, and 1,062 in 2011 while Hoboken411 put out 1057 and 1101.

Right off the bat, there's something wrong just on the raw totals.  In 2011, the difference is 39 crimes.
In 2010 the difference is 78 crimes with the City figures higher.

Someone has one if not both years incorrect.  The difference if 39 crimes is significant if they were all violent crimes such as murder and rape but it's not.  Hoboken411 says rape is up 25% but you are talking about a figure that is a handful and the St. Patrick's Day parade appears to be the reason.

While 39 crimes differential in a year is not insignificant, one can determine from just these differences in the figures of the four, this is about something other than crime.

BoE Trustee Ruth McAlister - 'Too many' positives with a November BoE election saving taxpayers $100,000


In a conversation with MSV, BoE trustee Ruth McAlister provided the following statement in favor of moving elections :

Every vote I make must be in the best interest of the children, and by saving almost 100,000 dollars a year and increasing voter participation in the school board election, I believe it is the ethically responsible thing to do for our children and the community.  

Based on the 2010 census ( 48% of the Hoboken population is between the ages of 20 and 34 years of age.  This group of individuals do not "mail" in bill payments or Christmas cards, why would we think that they would be motivated to VOTE BY MAIL?  We, as elected officials, need to do everything in our power to encourage participation in our democracy and the best way to exercise your right to participate is to vote.  It is uncomfortable to extend every school board trustees term by 8 months, but we would be extending all our terms not just those, including myself, that are up for re-election in April.  

Putting 100,000 dollars back in the budget for the children, and hopefully encouraging new voters to participate in the election far out weighs the extension of the terms.  As to the budget, there is now a legislative cap of 2%, that did not exist previously.  If we or a future board, wishes to increase the budget beyond the 2% cap it MUST be voted on in November, so the people still retain the right to voice their opinion when necessary.  I hope that all 9 members see this as the right move, and follow the lead of our State House, Senate, Governor and the other 257 districts that have already made this change.  In the end, the positives of a November election far exceed any reasoning to keeping the election in April.  We can do a lot of good with 100,000 that directly impacts our children.  

I see absolutely nothing that negatively impacts the children if we cast votes for school board in November. 

BoE Trustee Ruth McAllister - on board for November BoE Elections

Talking Ed Note: McAllister noted another example of the value of moving the elections saying the laptop program at the BoE for middle school costs $100,000.

Hoboken Patch somehow missed the story there are five Kids First votes available to move BoE elections to November.  While Claire Moses noted the KF members on the Governance Committee, she did not ask them their expectation of an affirmative vote on Tuesday and did not confirm the obvious fifth vote in Ruth McAllister.

McAllister confirmed she did not receive any request for comment on her position from Hoboken Patch.

Related: GA has a source who tells her the petition drive headed by developer Frank Raia is underway and he's going to the mattresses sending out the soldiers to collect signatures behind closed doors farming in the old stomping ground of the Hoboken Housing Authority, Church Towers, Marine View and Applied Housing.

In short, they are collecting signatures in subsidized housing in the hope it will convince the BoE five vote majority not to let people vote for an actual BoE election in November:

BoE Agenda: Moving Hoboken elections to November is up Tuesday night

Tuesday's BoE agenda will include a resolution to move to November elections.

Hoboken Patch says the outcome is "not certain." MSV is confident five votes are there to see it done.
The story also says a petition drive is underway, but with an affirmative vote Tuesday, any petition drive is moot.

Over 250 New Jersey school districts have already moved to November elections.  Tuesday night Hoboken will vote to join them.  But expect the Old Guard to make a show and bring out their non-taxpaying armies to make some noise and cry and curse at Kids First.

It's all over but the shouting.

Talking Ed Note:  As expected, the self-proclaimed reformer Maureen Sullivan has gone in with the Old Guard and refuses to save Hoboken almost $100,000 by moving to November elections.  Even with a budget that can't be reduced any more by State law, Sullivan says she thinks the budget needs a direct vote on election day (that always passes anyway) and the people should vote on moving the election.

That just happens to be the same position as Frank Raia who backed "Independents for Education."

With a chance to allow a far greater number of voters to cast ballots directly on BoE elections and save almost $100,000 Maureen Sullivan has officially revealed her hand - she's with the Old Guard now.

Snap Poll: 84% support November BoE elections in Hoboken

Yesterday Hoboken Patch put up a poll and although unscientific, the response is overwhelmingly in favor of November elections on the BoE.

So far over 250 New Jersey districts agree and Hoboken may follow when they have their scheduled meeting on Valentine's Day.

The Old Guard is displeased with these developments and desperately trying to find a way to stave off the Statewide trend.  Short of showing up with about 14,000 petition signatures, they'll not likely sway the majority acting on behalf on the will of the people.

The handful of paid and sympathetic political operatives look desperate to come up with a way to argue for support but at 84% in favor for a November BoE election, they can only hope to collect their pay and a pat on the head for their efforts.

The Hoboken Patch snapshot poll won't be to the liking of Old Guard sympathizers.

Talking Ed Note: While the poll yesterday is not scientific, it's does capture sentiment and if you haven't already voted, you may do so at the link: