This candidate's statement originally appeared in The Westfield Leader and TAPinto Westfield on Sept. 21, 2023
Stolen cars entering Westfield might as well have a license plate that reads “STOLN CAR” because that’s how obvious it is to our patrol officers.
Over the past several years, the Mayor and Town Council have invested in Flock Safety License Plate Reader (LPR) technology which, as the name suggests, can read the license plates of cars.
Once a car is reported stolen, it is entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. If that stolen car crosses into Westfield, the police department will be notified in real time.
Why is this important? In most cases, when criminals come to suburbs like Westfield to prowl our neighborhoods for cars to steal, they are frequently in stolen cars.
By knowing the location of a stolen car, our patrol officers are able to conduct a traffic stop, pulling the vehicle over, making arrests and thwarting the would-be car thieves.
However, in some cases, the criminals have no intention of stopping and speed away, leading police on a high-speed pursuit that may have to be called off when the chase becomes too dangerous for the public or the officers involved.
Much of this activity occurs while we are sleeping so we never get to see our officers in action. As chair of the Town Council’s Public Safety Committee, I am kept abreast of all the incidents. I can say with confidence that our police department is doing everything they can to protect us.
Every once in a while, however, criminals are able to evade our police and steal a car. Last year, it happened 15 times. In the first half of this year, 11 times. This is down significantly since 2017, when Westfield had 28 vehicles stolen.
The dramatic reduction in stolen cars can be attributed to the Westfield Police Department’s use of smart technology, like the LPR cameras.
The mayor and town council have authorized the purchase of 15 LPR cameras that were installed at various locations throughout Westfield in the later part of 2022. We also share and receive information from eight LPR cameras in Scotch Plains and Clark, giving us a network of 23 LPR cameras.
I am glad that our police department is working in partnership with neighboring police departments to thwart criminals.
As a member of the Town Council, I will continue to push for investment in LPR cameras and other tools our police department needs to keep the residents of Westfield safe and I will continue to support fully funding our police department.
The budget for the police department this year, which I proudly supported, totals $8.22 million, a 23 percent increase from 2017, the final year of the previous administration. The budget pays for 63 police officers, the largest force in Westfield’s history. When the current administration took office in 2018, there were 58 officers.
During a town council meeting, Police Chief Christopher Battiloro said 70 percent of the police officers are on patrol. He also stated unequivocally that he has the resources that his department need to keep Westfield residents safe.
In fact, Westfield is among the safest communities in New Jersey, thanks to our police department. Our community is ranked among the 50 safest communities in the state, along with Scotch Plains, Cranford and Summit in Union County, according to NJ.com.
Being victimized by crime is traumatic and feelings of anger are natural and justified. I sympathize with anyone who has had their house broken into, their car stolen, or worse.
I will continue to work to ensure the town council does its part to ensure the police department is well equipped and fully staffed. But I also recognize that there is only so much our local government can do.
I’m encouraged by legislation that was recently signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy to combat car thefts. But I ask residents to reach out to our state legislators and let them know that there is more they can do to make our communities even safer.
Do you like this page?