Council inserts state grants into 2018 budget

Also at the meeting, Chief Earle announces decrease in township’s crime since 2010.

At its latest meeting, Gloucester Township Council inserted recently received state grants into its 2018 budget. The funds specifically satisfy public safety and recreational needs.

The state’s department of Law and Public Safety, through the Office of the Attorney General, granted the township $90,000 for the partial funding of four police officers. This Safe and Secure Communities Program Grant also includes the implementation of the holistic Broken Windows approach to policing, addressing low-level offenses to prevent more serious crimes, in May 2019.

Another grant included more than $26,000 designated for bulletproof vests worn by the police department.

The final grant, from the state Department of Transportation in 2017, includes more than $284,000 for the final extension of the township’s bike path.

Throughout the year, the township plans to expand the bikeway to Landing Road and Lower Landing Road in Blackwood. The township has also proposed extending the route to Evesham Road, near Runnemede over the next few years, growing to a total of 4.4 miles.

Focusing on the welfare of township cyclists, Council passed a proclamation establishing May as Bicycle Safety Month, which includes the Ride of Silence that was scheduled for May 16 at Gloucester Township Community Park.

Debbie Kaighn, secretary and state coordinator of the worldwide Ride of Silence, presented to Council the objectives of the 16-year-old organization, which honors cyclists injured and killed in car accidents.

Last year, the nonprofit hosted 445 confirmed locations, including all 50 states in the United States, 48 countries and all seven continents across the globe.

“Motorists do not realize how fast a cyclist can pedal, and therefore can try to beat a cyclist so that they are not slowed down,” Kaighn said.

She says hundreds of cyclists are killed or injured through car impacts every year.

Kaighn also stressed that, along with regular traffic patterns, distracted and intoxicated drivers continue as a concern.

Many motorists do not realize they must share a road with cyclists, as the state recently passed a law implementing bicycle basics in the written portion of driver’s license exams. New drivers will learn bikes are considered vehicles, giving them lawful access to roads, as well as sidewalks.

Also along the lines of traffic safety, Council passed a resolution supporting the 2018 UDrive, UText, UPay crackdown on distracted motorists, which was enforced from April 1 to 30.

Through the duration of this year’s campaign, the Gloucester Township Police Department issued 167 motor vehicle summons, including 27 summons for cell phone/texting violations, 22 summons for driving with a suspended license, according to the department. Some 12 arrests were related to this month-long effort.

Looking ahead through June, Council passed a resolution deeming May 21 to June 3 as the “Click It or Ticket It” mobilization. The effort aims to increase seat belt usage rates through public education and high visibility enforcement.

Also addressing public safety, Police Chief W. Harry Earle presented the township’s 2016–2017 crime statistics, which still require verification by the state police.

From 2010 to 2017, overall crime has decreased by 30 percent in Gloucester Township. In that same time period, violent crime decreased 62 percent and juvenile recidivism decreased 50 percent.

He credits these declines to alternative approaches to addressing crime besides arrest, including the Gloucester Township Family Resource Center and Project SAVE or Substance Abuse Victimization Effort.

The department holds weekly meetings about crime throughout the township, comparing every month’s statistics to overall crime reports to recognize any specific spikes over the last two years.

Earle says township has seen no spikes yet in 2018.

The chief also shed light to a correlation between arrests and officer assaults from 2010 to 2017.

The total number of arrests during that period decreased by 5 percent. During that same time, officers being assaulted during arrest dropped 40 percent.

“Here, we’re decreasing crime dramatically but yet making less arrests and less officers assaulted,” Earle said. “So, there’s an interesting phenomenon there.”