New ACPD program brings back old-fashioned neighborhood policing
Albert Herbert remembers knowing the police officers who lived around him when he was growing up in Atlantic City. “Because there were guys in the neighborhood doing the job, friendly, it kind of broke down the barriers,” he recalled Tuesday as he stood in Chelsea Heights, where he still lives and now patrols. The Atlantic City police officer is one of 16 assigned to the new Neighborhood Coordination Officer Program, which has assigned two officers to each of the city’s six wards along with four who will work homeless outreach. Herbert and his partner, Jerard Ingenito, have a strong connection to their new beat. Both men own homes in the neighborhood. Herbert grew up here. Ingenito has been here since 1999. As they went on their inaugural rounds Tuesday, it didn’t take long to bump into those they knew, including the officers who influenced them. “What they did is they changed the perception,” Ingenito said as he stood next to Detective Joe Corson and retired Patrolman Connie Hackney. “Every day you would see them coming around and they would stop and, ‘How’s your mom? I heard she was sick,'” Ingenito continued. “And that’s the kind of thing this program is trying to bring back. It’s trying to bring back. That we need officers on the street, getting to know the residents.” This is the first of what will be an expanded program, Police Chief Henry White promised as the officers were officially introduced in City Council chambers. “What we’re seeing here is exactly what’s supposed to happen when everyone is working together,” White said, surrounded by officials including Mayor Frank Gilliam and Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was supposed to be an the announcement but was sick Tuesday. “No one is more excited than I am,” said Lt. Will Santiago, who is leading the officers. “As a young child walking the streets of Atlantic City, I was approached by police officers walking the beat, they instilled in me why I really wanted to become a police officer,” he recalled. Residents will have these officers’ cell phone numbers and be able to reach out to them whenever they need. At least two of the officers speak Spanish. Officer Syed Shah, who is in Ward 5, speaks Punjabi, Urdu and Pashto.