EAST ORANGE — From noon to midnight Friday, East Orange Police officers are sweeping abandoned homes in the city. They're checking bedrooms, basements and closets for squatters.
East Orange has 898 boarded up homes. Inside one on Grand Avenue this afternoon, officers found dozens of capsules, needle caps and other drug paraphernalia, but no one inside.
"There is no heat. They try and make heat, so sometimes a fire comes out of that so its important to secure the homes and provide safety to those inside," said East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi.
Anyone found inside the vacant homes will be taken to a city warming center and connected with social services.
"Give them an opportunity to go somewhere instead of hanging in vacant buildings," said East Orange Mayor Ted Green.
Mayor Green has done a number of 'Mayor on the block' outings, where he and his team walk the neighborhoods to pick up trash and talk with residents about any issues.
Today marked the city's first 'cops on the block' operation. The focus was on the East Orange - Newark border, where Newark Police were also apart of the effort.
Sanitation crews picked up piles of trash in the yards of abandoned properties. While code enforcement issued violations. More than 50 have already been written so far today.
In the past several years, East Orange has issued millions in fines. They’ve demolished problem properties and hired residents to help with clean up.
Police say this has helped lower crime, which down 20 percent overall, the city’s lowest crime rate since 1967.