Atlantic City Officials Publicly Spar Over Recent Spike in Violent Crime, Support for City Police

By: Katie Francis, Follow South Jersey Public Health Intern

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Atlantic City Police Department and Mayor Marty Small Sr., along with local and federal partners, held a press conference Monday afternoon discussing the gun violence that has taken over the city.

Atlantic City Police Chief James Sarkos explained how the police force is working with local and federal partners to proactively protect the city. This includes emphasis on the city’s anti-violence initiative, as well as the deployment of additional officers in strategic locations.

He also noted the decrease in police officers patrolling the city since the state took over Atlantic City’s policing, saying that the city has 270 officers, the same amount as 1978. While these numbers may be less than years past, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner says that they are not alone in the fight against violence.

“They have many agencies that are supporting it and their efforts to reduce the violent crime that is occurring on so many levels,” Tyner said Monday.

The Mayor discussed the major role that the community has in the city’s efforts to combat gun violence. He brought up his stance on the importance of residents policing their homes and their communities, saying that “it takes a village” to protect a city, and “that village starts with the community.”

Elsewhere, two Atlantic City councilors — Moisse Delgado and LaToya Dunsten — held their own press conference in response to the recent string of violent crimes. Delgado, an independent candidate in this year’s mayoral election, was interrupted by the sound of a police siren during his press conference.

“You hear that sound,” Delgado, who is hoping to unseat Mayor Small in this fall’s general election, asked. “Atlantic City was always known for carnival sounds and lights on the boardwalk. Now, we’re getting too used to that sound right there.”

The two council members urged the State Police to provide support to Atlantic City’s 270 officers. According to Councilman Delgado and Councilwoman Dunsten, Atlantic City’s police force is stretched too thin at this time. At his press conference, Mayor Small responded to this call to action by backing the Atlantic City Police Department and accusing Councilman Delgado and Councilwoman Dunsten of politicizing tragic events in light of the upcoming mayoral election.

Seven people were killed and more than 40 others were injured in the United States in shootings this past weekend. Gun violence has been a hot-button issue in the United States for years now, and South Jersey hasn’t been spared from this — including a larger-scale shooting in Fairfield Township that left three dead and 11 others injured on May 22.

“Unfortunately, Atlantic City has not been immune to the increase in violence that we have seen in cities throughout this country,” Atlantic City Police Chief James Sarkos said.

One of those four fatalities in US shootings this week and three of the injuries came from Atlantic City, where four people were shot on Sunday night. Additionally, a 55-year-old man was killed by a stabbing, and another 37-year-old woman suffered critical injuries at a home on South Carolina Ave. on Saturday, according to Atlantic County’s Prosecutor’s office.

Chief Sarkos also announced two grants from the Department of Justice that have been given to the city’s police department after a year in the making. The department was granted $740,000 to fund mental health clinicians within law enforcement agencies, as well as $690,000 for stationary license plate readers to be put at every entrance and exit in Atlantic City.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.