CLARK — As car thefts and home break-ins continue to plague the Union County area, local police departments are joining forces to find the best way forward.
On Monday, during a workshop session of the Clark Council, township officials introduced a new resolution that would allow members of the police department to participate in a county-wide municipal task force operated under the direction and supervision of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We will be working closely with all of the police departments in the county to deal with the increase in crime,” Township Administrator Jim Ulrich explained, noting that the terms of the agreement will be laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the cooperative agencies.
“We’ve been doing pretty well in town. The police have been out with their lights on, riding around, trying to be visible,” Mayor Sal Bonaccorso said. “This task force is going to allow us to add more manpower to our community, which will also help us to combat home break-ins by individuals looking to steal key fobs.”
Captain Christian Lott of the Clark Police Department explained that the task force will be deployed to various communities throughout the county based on areas of specific need. Each department, he said, is required to submit a daily report that tracks criminal activity.
“The county can see those records every day, and they can see where the break-ins and burglaries are occurring,” Captain Lott said. “If there is an increase in activity in a certain area, the prosecutor’s office will send out a call for manpower, and then the task force, which will include officers from every department in the county, will deploy to wherever the problem areas are.”
Officers who opt to participate in the task force will be compensated with overtime pay.
“We would pay the overtime for our officers just like the other municipalities will pay the overtime for theirs,” Captain Lott said.
The Clark Police Department, which has been under the control of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office since 2020, also will participate in another county-wide initiative designed to protect both residents and police officers during difficult calls.
The ARRIVE Together program, launched last year by the Union County Board of County Commissioners, sends response teams consisting of local police officers who are trained in crisis intervention, along with mental-health professionals who can help de-escalate challenging situations and avoid the use of force.
The ARRIVE Together teams also follow up later to ensure the person is receiving the help he or she needs. In addition, the program provides for teams to connect with individuals in their community who may benefit from outreach efforts.
ARRIVE Together launched in Elizabeth, Linden and Roselle Park last year, following an initial pilot program in Cumberland County spearheaded by the New Jersey State Police.
In May, the county announced that Union County municipalities including Plainfield, Westfield, Cranford, Berkeley Heights, Fanwood, Scotch Plains, Mountainside, Clark and New Providence had all agreed to participate in the program.
“When we saw the success of the pilot program last year, I knew I wanted to work together with Chairman Sergio Granados and the Commissioner Board to expand the program to benefit more residents in need across our entire county,” Union County Prosecutor William Daniel said earlier this year. “The experience of working alongside mentalhealth professionals complements and enhances the training received by police officers.”