Brick police were busier in 2014 than ever before, statistics from last year show.
With the full year’s statistics calculated, Police Chief Nils R. Bergquist said the department fielded 81,557 calls for service in 2014, the busiest in its history. Even in 2012, the year Superstorm Sandy struck, the department received 7,492 fewer calls – a total of 74,065.
But despite the influx of calls, crime rates have remained largely the flat, and burglaries, a chief concern among residents, dropped by about a third.
“Crime is affected by a lot of influences, and certainly the police are one of them, but it’s a combination of things,” said Bergquist, on the drop in burglaries from 332 in 2013 to 204 last year.
Brick police, with a re-instituted Selective Enforcement Team, was able to up the targeting street-level drug offenders, the group of people most likely to burglarize homes. Also, with a roster of 128 officers, the department was better staffed than it had been during its recent past. But beyond that, the chief said, township residents have been on the lookout for each other as the county battles the drug crisis on its own level.
“The town as a whole is just a good community,” said Bergquist, who is a Brick resident himself. “People look out for each other and are involved. Any time you’re able to keep crime down, it’s a multi-faceted approach.”
The spike in the number of calls for service in 2014 is a harder statistic to explain, however.
“There’s no one specific call for service that’s off the charts,” said Bergquist. “There are more than 100 different types of calls for service that are tracked. No single one spiked a great deal, but across the board, there were a lot more.”
Some of the increased activity has to do with a larger roster of officers, which naturally leads to more officer-generated calls when police proactively take on a case.
Police coverage in Brick has been an issue for several years, with the number of full-time sworn officers having dropped around 2010 before rising again as the municipal budget began to stabilize. This year, the township will spend $16,268,051 on salaries in the department, which is staffed by 128 full-time officers, 17 full-time dispatchers, four part-time dispatchers, 22 full-time EMTs, 19 part-time EMTs, 19 crossing guards, 10 support staff members and 18 Class I special officers.
The number of Class I special officers – who are unarmed and have limited police powers – will rise to 25 this year as the township continues to use those officers for tasks such as courtroom security and booking arrestees. Bergquist said the department was ordered by the state to begin providing municipal court security, which involves three officers who not only look after the proceedings, but run a metal detector outside the court room. Using the special officers, who earn $18.87 per hour, saves the township money versus paying overtime to a regular officers, and frees up on-duty officers to remain on patrol. The special officers are also handling the booking of arrestees, which previously was handled by the officer who made the arrest – often leading to overtime costs if the arrest was made toward the end of someone’s shift, or taking the officer off the street while booking paperwork was completed.
With the special officers handling court security and bookings, the department was able to reduce its overtime costs by more than $400,000 last year.
Bergquist said the department should be able to continue to operate with a full, 128 officer roster. The department, he said, continues to balance the protection of residents with budgetary concerns.
“Considering the economy and where we’ve been the last seven or eight years, we’re doing well,” he said. “I do not expect the numbers to go down.”
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” width=”500″ ]Crime in Brick – Quick Stats: 2014 vs. 2013
- Murder: 2013 – 1 / 2014 – 1
- Robbery: 2013 – 24 / 2014 – 27
- Assault: 2013 – 60 / 2014 – 59
- Simple Assault: 2013 – 339 / 2014 – 306
Total Crimes: 2013 – 1,611 / 2014 – 1,564 ( Down 2.9 percent)