Trenton, N.J., Police Director Joseph Santiago is claiming credit for helping push the city’s murder count down from a record-breaking 31 in 2005 to 18 last year, says the Trenton Times. He rattles off 20 to 30 ways his department has worked to combat the deadly surge of violence, which has largely been blamed on rival street gangs battling for the drug trade.
Santiago said part of the department’s success stems from increasing police coverage on the streets and at fresh crime scenes. The tactic has cost money: The city spent $6.45 million in police overtime during fiscal year 2006, up from $6.05 million the previous year and far surpassing the $3.6 million spent in 2004. The total 2006 fiscal year budget for the police department was $36.4 million. “I spend a lot of city money on overtime,” Santiago said. “I spend it on crime suppression.” Trenton’s unsafe image comes from the handgun, from the “pop-pop-pop” of a nearby shooting to the drive-by shooting that sends people scurrying for cover, to the young male gangster shot dead on the street. “We spend a lot of effort (on handgun crimes) because that damages the perception of the city,” Santiago said.