HELMETTA – Two former borough police officers will essentially come back home when the Jamesburg Borough Police Department transitions to provide police coverage for the borough.
The Borough Council approved a six-year shared service contract with Jamesburg at a special council meeting on June 27 effective midnight July 1.
“The council agreed that Jamesburg would be the best viable option for police services,” Helmetta Mayor Chris Slavicek said, noting the borough also had discussions with Monroe, East Brunswick and the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department. “[Jamesburg] aligns with our community, the vision and values of our community and our ‘small town big heart’ motto.”
In September 2021, Slavicek said discussions began with Spotswood Borough about their police service contract, which began in 2018.
In April 2018, borough officials decided to disband the Helmetta Police Department, and the council approved a police service contract with Spotswood for six years.
In 2017, then Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey had recommended Helmetta officials explore opportunities with neighboring municipalities to consolidate the borough’s police services.
“Based upon some financial obligations and discrepancy in contract language, we came to an amenable agreement based upon the terms of the contract to search for a new police department,” Slavicek said. “It’s not an easy process when in negotiations. It takes time with hurdles of COVID and people being out. We have had a lot of good discussion and you learn a lot, it’s an opportunity to learn, listen and grow.”
Slavicek said speaking with Spotswood Mayor Jackie Palmer, she was candid about a proposed significant increase to provide police services due to the increase in inflation and gas costs.
“She has to look out for her residents just like us,” he said, adding the decision to part ways was strictly professional. “It’s bittersweet. I pay tribute and appreciation to Spotswood, their administration and leadership for their hard work and dedication to our community. I think they’ve made Helmetta a better place to live.”
The cost for services with Jamesburg police starts at $700,000 and will increase incrementally by 15% every year. The department will provide 24/7 coverage for Helmetta.
Jamesburg Mayor Marlene Lowande said it’s a good deal when two towns can partner with one another.
“They are going to get the absolute best police service because that’s what we have in Jamesburg,” she said. “They are going to be part of our town and we are going to be part of them. I think when two small towns team up, it a lot more powerful, it does give you more muscle.”
The Jamesburg Police Department has a complement of 16 police officers. As part of the discussions with Helmetta officials, the department is expected to increase to 20 police officers.
“We have to provide almost like another shift, almost another crew to cover an additional area,” Lowande said. “It’s definitely a win where we get more officers for our department, but we also get more ground to cover, and the officers I think will enjoy that, to get out of the confines of our one-square mile.”
She added when the Helmetta Police Department disbanded, two officers from the department were hired in Jamesburg.
Slavicek said the police chiefs in Spotswood – Chief Philip Corbisiero – and Jamesburg – Chief James Craparotta – have had behind the scenes discussions in efforts to make a seamless transition.
“It not just a flip of a switch,” he said. “I applaud Spotswood for being at the forefront making sure our community is safe. Mayor [Palmer] was very concerned and wanted to make sure the transition was very smooth, and I respect that.”
The mayor added that they look forward in engaging community policing and getting involved with Jamesburg Police Benevolent Association 389 and creating an athletic league.
“We’re not a community where crime is a high rate,” Slavicek said. “We’re a community where police are patrolling, [providing] traffic control, making sure borough streets are safe,” he said. “There’s an element of rolling down the window, waving and getting out of the car to play basketball with a child. We want officers to be a part of our community.”
Slavicek said as for making an important decision on the public safety of the 3,000 or so residents in Helmetta, he said he would never make a decision that would hinder the reputation or safety of the residents.
“I believe that I’ve earned the respect as a trusted leader and have been very transparent having been serving for eight years,” he said, adding the opportunity with Jamesburg came to them as one door closed.