Newark, New Jersey Auto Theft Task Force
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of the Newark, New Jersey Auto Theft Task Force (Newark ATTF) as its Officers of the Month for October 2003.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, every twenty-six seconds a motor vehicle is stolen somewhere in the United States, making the odds of an automobile being stolen during 2001 1:194. The news is even grimmer in terms of dollar amounts and recovery. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that for the same time period the estimated value of the 1,226,456 motor vehicles stolen throughout the country amounted to $8.2 billion, while only 13.6 percent of thefts were cleared by arrests. There is little wonder as to why automobile insurance rates have sky-rocketed.
Originally the counties of Newark, Essex and Union, New Jersey combined their efforts to halt the significant increase of this type of crime and to increase the number of arrests and recovered vehicles. In May 1999, however, the rate of auto theft in Newark escalated to the point where it was necessary that the city form its own task force to work solely within its boundaries.
Officers assigned to the Newark ATTF were issued unmarked vehicles such as SUV’s and pick-up trucks to patrol the city in search of stolen autos. Reckless and suspicious drivers were soon targeted by the ATTF, their license plates checked to determine if the vehicles were stolen. Since its inception, the Newark ATTF has initiated over 3,000 arrests and recovered more than 850 stolen motor vehicles.
Like most major cities, crimes committed in Newark, New Jersey are not limited to car thefts and patrolling this inner city’s streets has many unforeseen hazards. On May 25, 2003 Sergeant Arthur Jorge, Detectives Vernon Bradbury, Angel Gonzalez, Mike Walker and Matt Ruane, noticed a vehicle they believed to be stolen. It was apparent that the individuals standing around the vehicle were intoxicated and that any encounter could result in a violent altercation between them and the police.
As the officers approached, one of the suspects pulled a concealed handgun from his pocket and dropped it to the ground. Alerting his partners to presence of a weapon, Detective Ruane retrieved the gun as Detectives Bradbury and Walker attempted to handcuff the suspect. Without provocation, the suspect began kicking and screaming wildly as a second suspect grabbed Detective Walker by his uniform shirt pulling him to the ground. By now a large crowd had gathered making the situation even more volatile. The by-standers were screaming profanities and threats as the suspects were calling for them attack the police. As Detective Walker attempted to shield himself from the attack, Detective Gonzalez struggled to subdue the attacker and put him into custody, meanwhile Sergeant Jorge was able to notify dispatch and call for back-up. Having been trained to work as a team the officers were able to make the necessary arrests without any shots being fired, or without anyone being seriously injured.
Recovering stolen vehicles is just one of the many services that the ATTF provides. The unit has recovered approximately 500 firearms since its inception the unit, and has issued over 12,000 summonses for moving violations, and captured over $200,000 in currency.
The Commander of the Newark ATTF is Captain Vincent Gagliano and its members, who are hand picked by Lieutenant James O’Connor, must be approved by the Chief and Director of the department. Selections are made based on the officer’s record and driving history. While no specialized training is required, the officers learn “on the job” and are under the direction of more senior members of the ATTF. Currently, in addition to Captain Gagliano and Lieutenant O’Connor, the ATTF members consists of Sergeant Gerry Guanci, Sergeant Arthur Jorge, and Detectives John Batista, Vernon Bradbury, Lenny Breaux, Stacy Conley, James Cosgrove, Andre Evans, Angel Gonzalez, Victor Manata, Hector Moya, Steven Rivers, Matt Ruane, Tom Ruane, James Stewart Jr., Jose Vasquez, Efrain Velazquez and Mike Walker.
Police Director Robert K. Rankin, Jr. noted, “Newark’s ATTF unit has had a tremendous impact on our overall crime reduction and preventions efforts and are certainly deserving of recognition for their dedication and hard work. This unit is a fine example of the many initiatives and specialized task forces implemented and operating within the City that has attributed to Newark’s ongoing reduction in overall crime for the past several years,” Rankin continued. “I am proud of the accomplishments of our ATTF which is a testament to the Department’s commitment to continue to seek and adopt innovative and effective methods to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” the Director concluded.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.