Mayor: More Police Needed For Hamilton Street

Mayor Chris Kelly

Mayor Chris Kelly said the Township Council needs to “revisit” the issue of hiring four police officers for the Hamilton Street business district.

The Township Council needs to “revisit” its decision to not fund four new police officers for the Hamilton Street business area, Mayor Chris Kelly said at the June 23 meeting.

Kelly made the comment after Pat Gianotto, chairman of the Hamilton Street Advisory Board, told the council that more needs to be done to make the area safer, especially in light of the June 9 shooting that sent a 19-year-old man to a local hospital.

The advisory board earlier this year asked the council for four police officers to patrol the Hamilton Street business district, a request to which the council initially seemed amenable.

But when the council began its budget hearings, it was revealed that the four officers had been reduced to two, with the extra money targeted for economic development in the Davidson Avenue area.

That decision has not sat well with Gianotto or the other advisory board members, and the latest shooting just ramped up the frustration.

Pat Gianotto

Pat Gianotto, chairman of the Hamilton Street Advisory Board, told the Township Council that more needs to be done to combat crime in the Hamilton Street area.

Gianotto told the council that several steps taken by the advisory board has the town “going in the right direction” in trying to rejuvenate the Hamilton Street business area, but, he said, more needs to be done. Among the steps taken to boost safety in the area is the upcoming purchase of several closed-circuit television cameras that will be monitored by township police.

The district runs along Hamilton Street, roughly from Franklin Boulevard to the New Brunswick border.

“One thing we need to do is make the area safe for business owners and residents,” he said. “It needs to be cleaned up.”

“You guys need to be able to do something to help us,” Gianotto said. “I know we’re getting two additional police officers, but we may need more.”

Gianotto said the police department needs to devise 6-month and 5-year plans to deal with the crime along Hamilton Street.

“Once you do that,” he said, “you’ll see all those proposed properties being built up start to happen.”

“You have our attention,” Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3) said. “Hopefully, we can move forward with the issues you are talking about.”

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) told Gianotto that he “see(s) the frustration in your voice. I think we are all happy with the way things are going, but I think we would like to see a little more, a little faster.”

“Hopefully, there will be more to report in upcoming weeks,” he said.

“I’d like to see a lot more, a lot faster,” Kelly said.

“That area has not been the best area since I was a kid,” said Kelly, a lifelong township resident. “We need to revisit getting more officers down there.”

Township manger Robert Vornlocker suggested that the council’s public safety committee hold a meeting in July, in which Police Chief Lawrence Roberts would “discuss his plan to develop an action plan” for Hamilton Street.

Vornlocker said he would email the committee members to set up a date for that meeting.

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