Department News – I have had the opportunity to serve as the O.I.C. and Chief of Police of the Lacey Township Police Department since December 1, 2012. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the Lacey Township Police Department and Lacey Township as a whole. At this time, I am announcing my impending retirement which is scheduled for August 1, 2016. I am confident that, with continuing community support moving forward, the police department and Lacey Township will progress to all new heights.
Over the past 3 1/2 years, I have been privileged to oversee a transition and cultural change in the police department which has translated to very noticeable exceptional and consistent performance in the field. With the tremendous support and engagement of the community the police department has experienced, we as a township have seen the crime rate drop significantly. The township has experienced a 64% drop in residential and commercial burglaries from a high of 119 in 2012, down to a low of 43 in 2015. Likewise, the township has experienced a 51% drop in thefts from a high of 684 reported thefts in 2010, down to a low of 334 in 2015. These numbers come together with other offenses specified by the FBI to form our “crime index.” The other offenses (e.g., murder, rape, robbery, etc.) occur with such low frequency that they do not significantly impact our crime index from year to year. Simply stated, burglaries and thefts are the most prominent offenses that directly impact residents in a municipality like Lacey Township. The crime index for Lacey Township peaked at its worst in 2010 at 31.1 indicating there were 31.1 Part 1 offenses reported per 1,000 residents. Once published by the FBI, the 2015 crime index for Lacey Township will be below 16.0 which is indicative of the significant drop in burglaries and thefts experienced during 2013, 2014, and 2015. This positive trend is currently continuing into 2016.
The drop in crime is attributable to numerous factors with no single factor being responsible. The officers of the Lacey Township Police Department have engaged in an “All in” approach throughout both the uniformed patrol division and the detectives. The primary focus has been on drug interdiction and individual accountability. During the period that victimization in Lacey Township has dropped by as much as 64%, the proactive arrests made by officers have increased by as much as 200%. The crime statistics collected and reported by the FBI and the NJSP as Part 1 offenses are based on reported crime and do not reflect the efforts of the respective police department. Another important statistic to consider is the number of arrests in a year. The staff of the police department, since 2013, has increased their proactive efforts resulting in over 900 arrests in 2015 alone. This is up from the norms of the years prior to 2013 when arrests tended to be below 300 per year. The increase in arrests is directly attributable to a philosophy of accountability based on the premise that if someone enters Lacey Township and commits a crime, they will be arrested and charged. Warrant checks and immediate on-scene or follow up investigations by patrol officers have been a critical component. The officers have found this to be a very effective approach in decreasing the likelihood that the individual will attempt similar acts in Lacey Township in the future. Many of the proactive measures taken have come as a result of an engaged community providing detailed information for officers to act upon. That community engagement will continue to be necessary moving forward for progress in the future to be possible.
It is also important to note that as the nation struggles and is finally openly recognizing the Heroin epidemic, Lacey Township was well ahead of others in addressing the problem. Lacey Township has one of the youngest demographic make-ups of the municipalities in Ocean County. Being a “young” town and squarely fitting in the demographic of concern for Heroin abuse, Lacey Township has faced the same challenges as the rest of the nation. Heroin is a problem that will continue for years to come, as the nation is being flooded with the drug from across our borders. Furthermore, Fentanyl, a much stronger synthetic form of the drug, is becoming more prevalent and will likely exacerbate the issue on a national level in the months and years to come. Most notable for Lacey Township is that the township has experienced a more than 20% decrease in overdoses since 2012 and a 30% reduction in deaths related to overdoses since 2012. This reduction has occurred during a time that the remainder of the county (as well as the state and the nation) has experienced significant increases since 2012. While any overdoses or deaths related to overdoses are too many, it is important to recognize that some strides are being made overall to deal with the problem locally. The members of the Lacey Township Police Department recognize that drug interdiction is at the core of the issue and will continue to proactively enforce the laws related to drug distribution and possession.
With respect to the Lacey Township Office of Emergency Management (OEM), I have submitted my letter of resignation from the Emergency Management Coordinator position effective June 1, 2016. The resignation is necessary as state regulations do not allow me to continue in the position beyond my retirement date. The June 1, 2016, resignation date will give me two months to work with a new coordinator.
Upon being designated the Emergency Management Coordinator on July 1, 2015, I took the opportunity to create a structured organization which now includes twelve dedicated volunteers and staff members with each having specific assignments and functions in an emergency event. Likewise, we worked as a team in revising the Emergency Operations Plan for Lacey Township. The Lacey Township Office of Emergency Management now also has several high-water evacuation vehicles available which were acquired through the federal military surplus program (1033 – LESO) over the past year.
I thank everyone in the community for their support over the past 3 1/2 years. I look forward to the “Meet the Officer Day” event that we have scheduled for Saturday, May 21, 2016 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at the Lacey Township Middle School and the prize ceremonies we have scheduled at the schools in June. The formation of the Lacey Municipal Police Foundation has made more interaction with the youth of Lacey Township possible. As the Chair and founder of the non-profit foundation, I will be able to remain involved in coordinating future events, such as the speedball tournament which we both sponsored and actively participated in the event with the youth.
Again, thanks for all of the support! – Chief David A. Paprota, Ed.D.