NPD closes Main St. cen­ter

No room in bud­get to con­tinue ini­tia­tive, po­lice say

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

After sev­eral months on Main Street, the Newark Po­lice De­part­ment has qui­etly closed its com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter.

“We just didn’t have the money in the bud­get to con­tinue,” NPD spokesman Sgt. Ger­ald Bryda said this week.

The cen­ter, which was lo­cated in the for­mer SAS Cup­cakes store­front at 134 E. Main St., opened in May just as the de­part­ment was gear­ing up to cel­e­brate its 150th an­niver­sar y.

Mod­eled after a sim­i­lar con­cept in Mys­tic, Conn., the cen­ter con­tained a large con­fer­ence ta­ble for meet­ings, and the walls were dec­o­rated with pho­tos and mem­o­ra­bilia from through­out NPD’s his­tory. Con­tain­ers near the door held color­ing books, crayons and stick­ers for young visi­tors, and blue lights in the win­dow sig­naled when the fa­cil­ity was open.

The site was only open to the pub­lic when staffed by a sworn po­lice of­fi­cer and did not op­er­ate as a satel­lite po­lice sta­tion, but rather a place for the com­mu­nity to in­ter­act with po­lice. NPD used it mostly as a place to hold com­mu­nity en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, like hand­ing out free wa­ter ice and dis­tribut­ing trad­ing cards to kids. It was also some­times manned by NPD’s spe­cial op­er­a­tions unit.

“We’re try­ing to make the po­lice ap­proach­able,” Lt. Den­nis Ani­u­nas, who pitched the idea to po­lice lead­er­ship and city coun­cil, ex­plained ear­lier this year. “I think that’s the prob­lem with so­ci­ety to­day is peo­ple look at this uni­form and they make a judg­ment for bet­ter or for worse.”

The com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter was a part­ner­ship be­tween NPD and Ge­orge Dan­ne­man, who owns the build­ing. Dan­ne­man al­lowed the po­lice de­part­ment to use the space rent-free as part of a pi­lot pro­gram.

The deal al­lowed NPD to use the space through the end of the year, but after de­cid­ing not to sign a lease for the prop­erty, the de­part- ment agreed to va­cate it ear­lier to al­low Dan­ne­man to show it to po­ten­tial ten­ants.

Bryda did not dis­close how much it would have cost to keep the cen­ter run­ning, but re­gard­less of the amount, it would have been a tough sell in the cur­rent bud­get cli­mate. On Mon­day, city ad­min­is­tra­tors pro­posed a more con­ser­va­tive bud­get than in past years, and some coun­cil mem­bers are ad­vo­cat­ing mak­ing staff re­duc­tions.

Bryda said he con­sid­ers the cen­ter a suc­cess and noted NPD would con­sider do­ing a sim­i­lar con­cept in the fu­ture if the fi­nan­cial as­pect could be worked out. The de­part­ment prides it­self on hav­ing a good re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity, he said.

“Any­thing we can do to foster that great re­la­tion­ship, we will do,” he added.

NEWARK POST FILE PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Mas­ter Cpl. Jay Conover hands out trad­ing cards to Bella and Alexan­der Williams, ages 9 and 7, at the com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter on Main Street in May. The cen­ter closed re­cently due to bud­get con­straints.

The Newark Po­lice De­part­ment re­cently closed its com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter, which was lo­cated at the site of the for­mer SAS Cup­cakes on Main Street.

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