Keeping Kearny shoppers safe

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

If you’ve noticed an increased police presence in Kearny’s shopping areas these days, you shouldn’t be concerned. It’s not in response to some sort of crime wave. It’s designed to deter crime — and to make harried holiday shoppers feel secure.

As KPD Chief John Dowie explained, the “holiday detail” is a yearly initiative “just to make the holidays safer for everyone.”

From Black Friday through the first of the year, uniformed officers are assigned to patrol “every shopping area in town” — including the Passaic Ave. malls, Walmart and Kearny Ave. — seven days a week, from mid-morning until closing time.

Non-uniformed officers are around, too, but the emphasis is on the high-visibility law enforcement presence. The uniformed cops are there in patrol cars, on motorcycle and on foot. In addition to keeping an eye on the parking lots and store entrances and environs, they also do walk-throughs in the various establishments.

On Kearny Ave., there is usually a foot patrolman assigned to the shopping district, not only to provide that watchful eye, but also “to expedite the traffic flow.”

Dowie said the program has been operating during the holidays for at least a decade.

While a prime purpose is the “deterrent effect” on potential shoplifters, car thieves, purse-snatchers and other ne’er-do-wells, there’s another advantage: If a crime does occur, the perps are not likely to get away.

Anyone who thinks this initiative might be superfluous need only read the story in this week’s Observer about the armed hold-up in Belleville on Sunday morning. The Main St. mall was reportedly bustling with shoppers — each a potential witness — but that did not prevent the thugs from robbing a Radio Shack. But if a police car had been on site when the culprits first arrived?

The “holiday detail” in Kearny utilizes a number of officers, including those from the Community Policing unit. Other KPD members maintain their usual assignments, so normal patrols, traffic duty and investigative work are not affected.

Like other KPD vehicles, the “holiday detail” cars are equipped with license plate readers and SPEN (State Police Emergency Network) radios, to alert officers to criminal activity — or vehicles involved in same — in surrounding jurisdictions.

The daily briefings to personnel assigned to the detail keep them abreast of crime trends and include descriptions of suspects and vehicles wanted in connection with crimes in other high-volume shopping areas.

In other words, they stay fully informed, the better to protect the public.

But there’s another important aspect to the holiday assignment: The officers are encouraged to interact with the public, to further a sense of security.

And they are also there to offer assistance, for instance helping to find a lost child, or helping the child find its parents.

They’ll even help you if you lock yourself out of your car. Which should be a weight off some holiday-boggled minds.

One more thought, which comes from your correspondent, not the KPD:

Considering what has been happening lately and the pressures police have been under, if you see an officer at the mall, you might offer a holiday greeting, or just a simple “thank you.”

The Observer Staff