After several gang shootouts in 2006, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine asked police superintendent Joseph Fuentes for help, says the Manhattan Institute’s City Magazine. The previous year, state police Maj. Christopher Andreychak went to Newark to focus not just on homicides but also on violence that didn't result in murder. The homicide clearanced rate was 65 percent, says Andreychak, a 25-year veteran, “But for aggravated assaults with a firearm that did not result in a homicide, it was 15 percent.” Knowing that many of the same culprits were responsible for both types of crime, Andreychak stressed the need to trace the weapons used in any violent assault. In less than a year, the clearance rate for violent incidents in the Newark area had increased from 15 percent to almost 50 percent, and shootings dropped by about 30 percent.
Fuentes suggested expanding the Newark project to the state's 14 most crime-ridden cities, Corzine allocated $750,000, and what came to be called Project Watchtower was born. At its center is the new Regional Operations Intelligence Center, known as the Rock, a state-of-the art fusion center for investigations and emergency management that opened near Trenton in early 2007 and is now manned by 200 people. The data-sharing arrangement has already paid off. In late May, five men were charged with illegally selling guns in Trenton after buying them in Bucks County, Pa., N.J. Trace is “a great law enforcement tool,” says Bryan Miller of Ceasefire NJ, an anti-gun-violence group. “Enabling jurisdictions to compare information across borders is a tremendous plus in cutting into the illegal gun market.”