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At a time when law enforcement agencies across the nation are struggling to recruit officers, the Trenton Police Department is bucking the trend.
On Wednesday morning, 14 new officers took the oath to protect and serve. Seven of them are from BIPOC communities, including three women.
Crystal Hernandez, who was born and raised in Trenton, said being a female police officer is gratifying.
“I believe the world has changed a lot, yes we are always going to be seen as women no matter what day in age it is, but I’ve noticed there is a lot of difference within that,” she said.
She said she knows many members of the public don’t trust the police.
“Being able to interact with at least one person daily, hopefully I’m able to change that little by little in my community,” she said.
Nicholas Magos, a former New Jersey Corrections Department officer, is excited to be joining the force. Like Hernandez, he wants to nurture trust in the community.
“I always saw a passion in helping others with law enforcement and whatnot, so that’s kind of been my passion, my drive ever since the beginning,” he said.
“It’s going to take a lot of people together to change the perspective of police, and that’s the direction I want to bring. I want to bring back the trust in people and show there’s good and bad with everything. We’re here to help people, that’s the message we want to send out.”
Trenton Police Director Steve Wilson said he hopes the new officers will help bridge the divide between law enforcement and the community.
He said efforts to attract more officers to the 260-person Police Department have been hampered by a negative view of law enforcement in recent years, but community outreach measures are starting to pay off.
“The pendulum is now swinging the other way, but we have to keep at it and keep up with the public trust,” he said.
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora said it’s important to have officers in the force who reflect the neighborhoods that they serve.
“It’s so that they can empathize with people, they can use their discretion, and understand that a lot of the residents, especially in the city, with many below the poverty line, what their experience is on a day-to-day basis, but also uphold the principles of the law,” he said.
Adding more police officers will also help make the city safer and lower the crime rate, Gusciora said.
“It’s actually decreasing and we’re going against the national grain, we’ve cut homicides almost by half, and shootings are down,” he said.
According to Trenton Lieutenant Brian Jones there were 2,604 reported crimes in the city last year, a reduction of over 1%.
He said shootings not resulting in death saw more than a 50% decrease, with 37 in 2023 compared to 81 in 2022, and Trenton PD had a crime solving clearance rate of 58%, above the national average.
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