The Harrison Parking Center, where hundreds of residents, commuters and visitors garage their vehicles, is now taking on an expanded function.

Last week, the town rolled out a “soft opening” for a new mini-police precinct that will use the garage at Third and Somerset streets – only a short distance from the PATH station, Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard and the center of the town’s booming waterfront redevelopment area – as its base.

“We’ve been looking forward to opening this for a while,” Mayor James A. Fife said. “And, eventually, there will be a 24-hour-a-day presence down here.”

When fully operational, Fife and Third Ward Councilmember Larry Bennett said the new sub-station should enhance public safety in the area, whether to sound alerts about flooding due to heavy rainfalls or to foil would-be muggers and/or car thieves.

And, Fife said, he’s hoping that by sometime this fall, when the mini-precinct is fully staffed, the HPD can expand its coverage area by incorporating “walking patrols” along Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard, the town’s primary business district.

Police Chief David Strumolo said: “This is the culmination of the town’s three-year plan to increase the size of the police department, from the 40 officers we had in 2019 to 51 currently. (In the last four years, the HPD lost 17 officers to retirement but hired 28 new cops over that same period of time.) The mayor and Town Council agreed to provide us with this sub-station to handle the upswing in service calls from the growing south end of town.”

Since 2018, when he became chief, Strumolo said the number of police service calls have climbed, town-wide, from about 25,000 to 40,000 per year. (He wasn’t able to readily track the volume of calls from the south end of town pending tweaking of the department’s computer system.)

For the next few months, Strumolo said the station’s operations will be limited to “morning and afternoon rush hours” under the command of traffic safety commanders Lt. Corey Karas and Sgt. Marc Silva.  Officers assigned to the precinct on a rotating basis will likely focus on accidents in the area bounded by Somerset Street, Cifelli Drive and FER Blvd. and quality of life issues, the chief said.

“Once we get a new group of officers out of the (police training) academy in November, you’ll see a larger presence here,” Strumolo said.

No dedicated phone line has been set up for the sub-station, but calls to the HPD’s main number can be patched over to the garage, the chief said. Also, people can email the location by writing to hpdcpu@townofharrison.com.

As part of its community-policing function, Strumolo said: “We’re going to be putting up public notices and other information in the form of a bar code, which people can access with their iPhone or Android phone. We’re going hi-tech here.”

The public will be able to report crimes and, eventually, apply for resident parking permits at the sub-station, the chief said.

With the new complement of officers expected to complete their academy training later this year, Strumolo is optimistic he will have enough personnel to initiate walking patrols in multiple areas around town, and not just Rodgers Boulevard.

(Security inside the five-story garage will remain under the province of the facility’s manager and, if needed, patrons may use any of the interior wall phones with blue lights to call 9-1-1.)

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.