NPD closes Main St. center
No room in budget to continue initiative, police say
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.
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.