Since regaining control of its police department and empowering the new police chief to implement his own policies, Lavallette officials say overtime in the department has been reduced substantially while productivity has increased.
After a raucous Memorial Day weekend in which thousands of dollars worth of borough property was damaged, leading the council to pass a youth curfew, the trouble has subsided. According to Councilwoman Joanne Filippone, there has been just one incident of vandalism against a private business. Councilman Robert lamb said there have been no additional publicly-owned facilities damaged.
“We are back to full strength,” said Filippone. “We have ten Class I [officers], three Class II [officers], plus our 12 full-time officers. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that.”
Class I officers generally work part time and are unarmed. Class II officers may work either full or part-time and carry a sidearm.
The department responded to 130 calls for service over Memorial Day weekend alone, but since then, the volume has dropped. In June, the department issued 74 traffic summonses (compared to 70 last year) and two borough ordinance violation summonses. For the extended July 4 weekend, the department committed a few of its part-time officers to crack down in illegal fireworks displays – a frequent request from residents for the past 17 years Filippone said she has been a member of the council.
“For the first time I recall, at least four tickets were issued to people who were shooting off illegal fireworks,” said Filippone. “Spread the word, because they’ll be out again. We have some habitual locations, and if you live in an area with a habitual problem with fireworks, notify the chief where you are. Perhaps we can up the patrols and get more of these people.”
“Fireworks are extremely dangerous when they’re done professionally,” she added. “Imagine how dangerous they are when they’re not done professionally.”
One of the largest displays to be shut down by police occurred near the beachfront at Brooklyn Avenue.
The re-invigoration of the department has been seen on a wider scale than just the number of tickets issued, however.
Since formally taking charge of the department on a day-to-day basis, newly-appointed Chief Christian LaCicero and his supervisory officers have taken training courses in ‘SWATing‘ incidents, field sobriety testing, drug-impaired driving and CPR. LaCicero himself attended a tabletop simulation of a terrorist attack on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, a concern that has remained fresh in the minds of locals since a bombing of a Marine Corps charity run was attempted in Seaside Park in 2016.
Despite all of the activity, the department was able to shed 47 hours of overtime last month compared to a year earlier. So far this year, the department has reduced its overtime load by a staggering 566 hours – at least partially a product of hiring more dispatchers and special officers to complete more routine tasks.
“I want to congratulate the chief on a job really well done,” Filippone said.