As we embark upon a new year I wanted to write to all of you to reflect upon the drastic changes our society has undertaken, in recent years, as it relates to public safety, the enforcement of laws, respect for law enforcement officers and the denigration of the rule of law resulting from a lack of consequences for those who commit crimes and victimize the law abiding population of our State.
I enter my 26th year of law enforcement in 2023 with renewed motivation to enact positive change for our residents, our officers and the law enforcement community as a whole. While at times it appears legislative efforts continue to work against us and the law abiding citizens of our State, those of us in law enforcement continue to find positive and effective means to accomplish our goal of community public safety despite the obstacles continually placed in our way.
After the onset of the pandemic we saw significant increases in criminal activity which peaked in 2020 thru 2021 and only slightly declined in 2022. Violent criminals sought to victimize residents of our Borough and our County on what seemed like a nightly basis, some of whom were apprehended after dangerous pursuits, only to be back on the streets the very same day committing additional crimes and victimizing additional members of the law abiding citizenry of our County and our State. Look no further than the events last week of the car thief being picked up from the Morris County Courthouse in a stolen vehicle to then commit a residential burglary of an occupied home and steal a vehicle from the driveway. What will it take for these criminals to be incarcerated for extended periods of time unable to infect society any longer? What could have happened if the career criminal had been confronted in that home burglary by the juvenile resident who was home alone? What kind of violent encounter could have occurred and what could the result have been for that juvenile? Sensationalized questions, I think not. This is what has become the reality for the residents of our communities and for our officers.
A recent article written by FBI Director Christopher Wray states the fundamental duty of law enforcement is to ensure people can live free from fear, a task that has become more challenging in recent years. The article continues to state the top concerns for law enforcement are gangs terrorizing communities, stolen vehicles, carjackings and residential burglaries. All of which, with the exception of carjackings, have occurred in Florham Park within the last three years. Make no mistake about it, the individuals committing motor vehicle burglary, residential burglary and motor vehicle theft in this community are dangerous, weapon wielding, gang affiliated criminals. Director Wray concluded his article by indicating too many repeat offenders are out on the streets and that policing is becoming increasingly dangerous while officers are being continually asked to take on increasingly complex issues. Director Wray hammered home his point with the statistical horror that a police officer in this Country is feloniously murdered once every six days. Ponder that statistic for a moment, one police officer in this Country is murdered every six days. That is an alarming number for those involved in law enforcement but also for law abiding citizens everywhere. A change must occur for lawful society to endure and it has to begin now. Support from the resident populations throughout the State must be heard consistently in order to effect positive change.
Our Borough’s population continues to increase annually. What was a sleepy bedroom community of approximately 8,500 residents when my career started in 1997 has now swelled to an anticipated 2021 population of 13,149 residents, according to the Morris County Municipal Population Estimates of 2021, see link below; https://www.morriscountynj.gov/files/sharedassets/public/departments/planning-amp-preservation/1-3-23-pop-estimates-2021.pdf
The greater the population the greater the number of potential victims available to those criminal elements seeking to victimize our community. The State of New Jersey continues to increase the responsibilities and requirements of law enforcement officers on an annual basis further straining the resources currently available. We need the support of our residents now more than ever to assist in maintaining overall community safety. As I stated earlier, I and the officers I represent have a renewed motivation and committed dedication to overcome all obstacles in providing the safest community for our residents and visitors to live, work and visit this great Borough. Please join us in our efforts by being the force multipliers we require in our neighborhoods, by caring about your neighbors and watching out for their well-being, by reporting any suspicious behavior, person or vehicle immediately and most of all by remembering our officers are focused every single day on the health and safety of our community.
While our Department’s Vision Statement begins, “With Community Policing as our Foundation,” our officers have been instructed to increase their community engagement to better serve our growing population. I ask every resident to please make the effort and take the time to engage with our officers, to become a part of who we are and remember, “The police are the public and the public are the police,” (Sir Robert Peel).
Please stay safe and vigilant!
Chief of Police
January 16, 2023