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Brick Police Had Their Busiest Year in History in 2023; Do We Need More Officers?

Police block off Lanes Mill Road near Brick Memorial High School, Oct. 22, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Police block off Lanes Mill Road near Brick Memorial High School, Oct. 22, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick Township Police Department had the busiest year in its history in 2023, Chief David Forrester told officials and residents Tuesday night, as part of a presentation to help develop this year’s departmental budget.

The department in 2023 handled a staggering 96,432 calls for service, including 11,141 EMS calls. The year’s final count was up a total of 1,625 more calls than 2022.

“That is the most in the department’s history,” said Forrester. “We are a busy police department filled with employees dedicated to Brick Township.”

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The department, which has grown to become one of the most capable in New Jersey with its own Street Crimes Unit, SERT (SWAT) Team, expansive detective bureau and an active marine unit, stands at 141 officers on the roster due to retirements. The department’s roster currently calls for 146 officers and more will be hired to replace retirees. Altogether, the department employs 223 people, which also includes about two dozen dispatchers, 17 crossing guards, 18 Class I special officers (part-time, unarmed) and a civilian deputy emergency management coordinator. The department also has an in-house fleet worker and a number of records clerks.

In 2023, the department budgeted $21,458,770 toward salaries and spent $20,741,118. It allocated $1,250,000 for potential overtime and spent $1,015,885. In almost every category, the department came in under budget last year. For 2024, the department’s salaries will be budgeted at $22,420,000 with $1,150,000 reserved for overtime.

In all, the department wrapped up last year $957,670 under budget.

The growth of the township, as well as a national uptick in crime that has seen officers dealing with a higher number of calls for serious crimes such as vehicle theft and break-ins, led at least one resident at the meeting to ask if the current roster calling for 146 sworn officers was enough.

“We would like to get up to 150 gradually, but you have to balance the whole budget,” said Forrester. “You have to support them with dispatchers and other staff.”

In 2024, Brick police will seek to up its number of Class I special officers from 18 to 25 in order to supplement full-time officers by handling tasks such as administrative bookings and maintaining a watch over the station lockup, as well as providing security at township events and meetings.

Over the last decade, the department has seen steady growth, said township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin.

“When I started 10 years ago, the roster for the police department was 134 [officers]. Now we’re at 146,” she said. “The council, and the councils before you have always done what we can, but we do have to be mindful to stay within cap.”

By “cap,” Bergin was referring to the state’s law capping expenditures and tax levy increases to 2 percent, per year.

During the same public comment period during which attendees could address the chief, resident Vic Fanelli asked if moving toward a digital platform for reporting crimes or other incidents could free up officers’ time without requiring a larger force. The department does operate an online tip-line and offers self-reporting of minor vehicle accidents directly to a state website, however requiring citizens to report incidents online also has its pitfalls, Forrester said, adding that even a report filed digitally would still count as a call.

“We wouldn’t want to deter people from reporting something because they don’t want to come in,” he said, adding that elderly residents might have trouble accessing a digital system if they felt they could not call an officer to respond to in person.

Forrester said he is hoping the department can manage to come in under budget again in 2024, but like most other governmental agencies and private businesses, faces inflationary costs and increased labor costs.

“We have managed to maintain being under budget for 2023 and we will continue to be conscientious and keep overtime costs under budget,” he said. “But I need to plan for unforeseen situations.”

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