EAST ORANGE, N.J. -- Officials from two major cities in New Jersey came together today to say that criminals have been taking advantage of their borders for too long.
East Orange and Newark are two high-crime cities, and where they meet — the crime rate explodes.
"There are folks who commit crimes from both cities. Some in Newark end up in East Orange. Some in East Orange, that end up in Newark," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said.
Fast-moving suspects will cross over the municipal border to evade law enforcement. But today, officials said no more.
"This joint border-patrol program today sends a strong message," East Orange Mayor Ted Green said. "As we know, criminals don’t have a boundary. The message we are sending today with partnerships, that we don’t have a boundary and we are going to pool all our resources together."
Newark police officers and East Orange police officers will partner up and ride together in shared squad cars to patrol the border.
Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose explained that officers have always had an obligation to cross borders if they are in fresh pursuit of a suspect, but today's initiative gives them the added insight of dual departmental knowledge and communications.
"Police officers are authorized to continue," he said. "This here makes it a little different where you have an East Orange Police Officer and a Newark Police officer in the same car."
Mayors Green and Baraka signed an agreement today to make this special force official.
In addition, both cities have implemented new policing initiatives independently in recent months in the neighborhoods closest to their shared border.
Newark opened two new police precincts. One to patrol the Upper Vailsburg and Ivy Hill neighborhoods, and one to police Newark's North Ward and West Ward.
While Public Safety Liason Jose Cordero said East Orange Police began polling residents this the summer to gather their top concerns.
So far, 1,427 people have been interviewed.
Top worries among neighbors are rooted along the Newark-East Orange border, including reports of an open-air drug market, quality of life issues and erratic driving.
Cordero said East Orange P.D. has launched a half-dozen major operations in recent months to take down criminals perpetrating such crimes, and he reported today a 19 percent drop in crime over last year.
Meanwhile, Newark is boasting it's lowest crime rate in 5-decades, according to Newark Director Ambrose.