North Bergen Police release annual report

Notable cases, statistics, and goals highlighted

The report provided an extensive look into the department's activity throughout 2018.
The report provided an extensive look into the department's activity throughout 2018.

The North Bergen Police Department has released its annual report, a summary of the department’s activity in 2018. “This is the most impressive report we’ve ever put out,” Chief Robert Dowd said. “We’ve really expanded our community outreach program, and the rate at which we clear our crimes remains well above the national average.”

The 40-page document includes statistics, notable cases, and updates on personnel.

“As we look back on the year 2018, we have many achievements to highlight. However, our greatest success remains our commitment to a crime control strategy of community policing coupled with the use of cutting-edge technology,” Dowd said.

In municipalities of more than 50,000, North Bergen is the safest in Hudson County, the sixth safest in New Jersey, and 23rd safest in the United States, according to FBI statistics. The township has a violent crime rate 2.5 times lower than the national average, and a property crime rate 3.1 times lower.

Notable cases

Notable cases this year included arrests related to illegal firearms, carjacking, theft rings, robbers posing as taxi drivers, home invasions, and human trafficking.

During a street encounter, an officer arrested a male armed with a handgun and in possession of heroin. A followup investigation traced the firearm to a Weehawken resident. In a joint investigation with other agencies, the Weehawken resident was arrested. An investigation led to the seizure of multiple handguns, assault rifles, and ammunition, which the owner was selling to buy heroin.

After a North Bergen resident posted her car for sale on the internet, she was contacted by a suspect looking to purchase the car. The buyer asked to take it on a test drive. The victim allowed the driver to do so with the victim’s 17-year-old son in the car. The suspect drove to Newark, brandished a handgun, kicked the 17-year-old out of the car, and left him stranded. CCTV footage and social media evidence led to an arrest. The FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force was also on the case.

North Bergen Police Officers busted suspects who used stolen pickup trucks to steal trailers from construction sites. After the group stole about $100,000 worth of equipment, they were caught through CCTV cameras and automated license plate readers.

Two suspects were arrested after incidents in which they picked victims up in a taxi and robbed them. They were nabbed after being tracked down through the GPS signal from a victim’s cell phone.

Officers arrested a suspect who was charged with attempted human trafficking. The investigation started when officers saw suspicious flyers advertising a modeling agency that would pay prospective “models” by the hour. With help from the FBI, state police, and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, an undercover agent called the number listed on the flyers, posing as an underage girl. The suspect told the undercover officer he intended to film the two of them engaging in sexual acts, and he would pay the officer for it. The suspect agreed to meet the undercover officer in North Bergen, and was arrested.

In a joint human trafficking operation with the FBI, New Jersey State Police, human services agencies, and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, officers identified juvenile and adult victims of human trafficking, and provided them with appropriate services. Individuals who were engaging in prostitution were interviewed by trained counselors about victim services.

North Bergen Police officers responded to a home invasion in which shots were fired, linking suspects to the crime through their vehicle. The suspects were arrested, including one who was apprehended in Oklahoma and extradited for trial on March 27 this year.

A woman staying in a local hotel became the victim of an armed robbery, when a suspect entered her room armed with a handgun and demanded money. North Bergen Police tracked the suspect’s white taxi from New York City. The driver was arrested, along with three other occupants of the taxi.

After a suspect was arrested in a local deli robbery, a multi-agency investigation connected him to and charged him with several other crimes throughout the area, including a bank robbery in Jersey City.

North Bergen Police officers responded to a brutal stabbing outside a local restaurant. During a manhunt across multiple jurisdictions, officers from North Bergen responded to a second fight in which multiple victims were stabbed. Three suspects were arrested. The attacks were part of an MS-13 gang conspiracy.

Officer of the Year

Detective Christopher Orellana was named 2018’s Officer of the Year. He was involved in several of the above-mentioned cases. He made several other arrests for major crimes throughout the year.

Internal affairs summary

A report from the internal affairs department showed 95 complaints against North Bergen officers.

Thirty-three were “demeanor” complaints. Five were sustained.

Thirty-one complaints for “other rule violations” were sustained, while 22 “other rule violations” complaints were not sustained. The  target of a complaint about differential treatment was exonerated.

Internal Affairs processed 101 complaints in 2018. Thirty-six were sustained in total; fifty were not. One case was administratively closed. Fourteen cases are pending.

Other stats and updates

According to a demographic summary, the North Bergen Police Department’s 135 officers and 179 civilian employees are composed of a Latino/non-Latino ratio of 57:43, while the township’s Latino/non-Latino population has a ratio of 68:36.

About $14.1 million of the 2018 municipal budget was allocated to the police department. The total municipal budget was about $95.7 million.

Last year, the police department assigned a School Resource Officer to every school in the township. These officers serve a variety of functions, and receive continuing training to interact with youth populations in school settings.

In 2018, the department received 126,375 calls for service, 14 calls per hour.

The police department has double the clearance rate of the national average in several categories of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. In all categories of crime besides rape, the department continued to exceed the national average rate of clearance. Crimes can be cleared through arrest, the death of an offender, denial of extradition, and other means.

Goals for 2019

The department will pursue re-accreditation from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police this year. This accreditation, which is renewed every three years, requires more than 100 standards to be met and maintained.

Funding to pilot a body-worn camera program has also been requested by the department. While body-worn cameras are not mandated, the department reports that the potential to increase public and officer safety, reduce liability, increase transparency, and assist with prosecution is a worthwhile investment.

The department is seeking grant funding to equip more officers with tasers. Currently, supervisory personnel have tasers, but the department hopes to secure funds to train and equip non-supervisory officers with tasers, an option that can prove less lethal than other measures.

A full-time crime analyst will likely join the department, after budget adjustments are made. The goal is to enhance public safety, identify emerging trends, allocate resources, and plan crime-prevention strategies.

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