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NJ AG Platkin Says Paterson Crime Dropped After State Takeover

Six months after a state takeover of the troubled police department in New Jersey’s third-largest city, state authorities say crime is down, public sentiment is improving and new technology is helping hold cops accountable, according to Governing. Paterson’s police force has been under the microscope since March, when state Attorney General Matthew Platkin cited a “crisis of confidence in law enforcement in this city” and took over the department. Since then, an ex-NYPD chief hired to turn things around has ordered more officers onto foot patrols, dramatically increasing their presence along the city’s Broadway corridor. The effect has been significant, city officials and residents say. “Broadway has become a billboard for what change can look like in the city of Paterson,” said Issa Abbassi, the officer in charge in Paterson. “But it can’t stop there.” Platkin said the library had become a hub of drug activity and crime that kept away families. Since Paterson police doubled down on foot patrols and community policing on Broadway, the attorney general said, “this neighborhood blossomed and the library once again became accessible to the children of Paterson as a safe and welcoming place.”

Crime is down across the city, Abbassi said. Compared to this same time last year, Paterson has seen a 57% reduction in murders and a 32% decline in shootings. Robbery, rape, and aggravated assault numbers are similarly down. The department is launching nighttime walking patrols in five other areas of the city known to have problems similar to those endemic on Broadway. Abbassi also outlined a raft of reforms, including a requirement that every cop on the force be trained in and carry “less lethal” weapons including pepper spray and Tasers. The department has contracted with a technology firm to use artificial intelligence to monitor officers’ body-worn camera footage, which officials say will vastly improve oversight of the large department. Officials are also moving the department’s internal affairs functions out of police headquarters, a move to make people more comfortable filing reports of excessive force or corruption. The reforms come after years of problems, including criminal charges against a dozen officers, millions in legal settlements, and fierce criticism of police use of force. Platkin acknowledged the department still has a long way to go. “There is much work to be done,” he said. “No ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner here.”


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