Erick Mancia of North Bergen was driving through Guttenberg when he allegedly struck a 15 year old female Guttenberg resident. Afterward, he allegedly he got out of his car, then drove away from the scene, apparently unaware traffic surveillance cameras recently installed by the town of Guttenberg would aid police in his apprehension.
According to Mayor Gerald Drasheff, the cameras have been in place for less than six months. The mayor was planning to issue a press release once all the cameras were installed, but the recent incident indicates how effective the cameras can be.
Drasheff said that they’ve been in the process of installing the cameras for about a year now with the permission from PSE&G, contracting with Packetalk LLC from Lyndhurst, the same installer that North Bergen used. Some of the cameras were purchased with $187,000 of Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) funds, while others, needed to complete the network, were purchased with $80,000 of capital and operating town funds. The UEZ funds only could have been used on streets in the zone.
“It will also serve as a deterrent for major crimes.” – Mayor Gerald Drasheff
In 2009 the administration of Gov. Christopher Christie, citing the state’s budget deficit, froze the UEZ program, in which enterprise zones where a lower sales tax rate encouraged shopping could be upgraded with sales tax revenues returned to the municipalities.
There are 13 cameras in the UEZ zone with one additional one in place and a total of 22 will be installed when the program is complete in a couple of months. The live feed from the cameras will be displayed on two monitors instead of the single monitor that has 13 images on display. The monitor is currently in a police lieutenant’s office but will be moved to the front of the police precinct once renovations are completed. When moved to the permanent location, the cameras will be monitored 24 hours a day. There will also be training for the officers on how to use the system.
There are also overlapping cameras on the Guttenberg and North Bergen border on 71st to 72nd in Bergenline Avenue.
“We’re going to be able to monitor their cameras as well as ours,” said Magenheimer.
Cameras led to fast arrest
Mancia’s arrest came after an accident July 5 at 10:30 a.m. at 68th and Polk Street. The juvenile that was allegedly struck sustained several injuries. Weehawken and Jersey City medics responded and she was taken to Jersey City Medical Center where she was released.
Officer Travis White, Investigator Joseph Keselica and Captain Magenheimer responded to the call and surveyed the area but were unable to find the suspect.
Keselica checked the street pole camera on 68th Street and Madison Street. The camera recorded a partial plate number, with three characters visible. Keselica contacted the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center which gave him a list of 49 vehicles matching the description and partial plate number in New Jersey.
He then noticed that there was a resident North Bergen on the list. Keselica and Magenheimer went to the address and saw a vehicle with windshield damage and a red air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. The vehicle was towed, after which allegedly Mancia turned himself in and allegedly claimed that the victim told him to leave, according to the investigation report.
Mancia was arrested for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, aggravated assault by auto and having no driver’s license while allegedly operating a car belonging to a family member. He was released on his own recognizance by Municipal Court Administrator Alida Buezynski.
His first court appearance was on July 11 at Central Judicial Processing in Newark and any evidence obtained will go in front of a grand jury within a couple of weeks.
“Without the camera, this guy gets away,” said Magenheimer.
The surveillance cameras will eventually cover all of Guttenberg, a small community of four blocks. Magenheimer said monitors will be placed in police vehicles to allow officers to access a situation before they arrive at the scene of an incident.
“I think it’ll give the public a sense of security,” said Drasheff. “It will also serve as a deterrent for major crimes and even the kids. If the kids know they’re on camera they’re going to think twice before they vandalize something.”
The cameras can be set up to look for specifics such as license plates or even the sound of a gunshot. Playgrounds and basketball courts will also be monitored for vandalism, including the new park being built by the waterfront.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org