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Mahwah Police Arrests, Tickets and Overtime All Up in 2012

Township Council attempts to curtail rising overtime budget at public hearing

According to a budget presentation at the township council meeting Thursday night, Mahwah Police officers were busy in 2012.

Last year, cops arrested a higher number of people and gave out more tickets than they did in 2011, Chief Jim Batelli told the council during the hearing.

Overall, arrests in Mahwah were up over 21% over 2011, with some categories like juvenile arrests and drug-related arrests spiking in 2012, Batelli said.

The number of tickets written jumped, too – from just over 5,000 in 2011 to 7,605 in 2012. While Batelli said the arrest increase is “significant,” the number of tickets issued by Mahwah police typically fluctuates between 5,000 and 9,000 per year, he said.

Thursday night, the town council entered a lengthy discussion in an attempt to knock down the police overtime costs associated with the police activity. According to the council, police overtime jumped from $327,000 in 2011 to $514,000 in 2012.

The biggest chunk of the OT costs is from court overtime, officials said, as Mahwah officers are paid to attend Tuesday night court proceedings for crimes ranging from motor vehicle tickets to criminal offenses. In 2012, court overtime cost the township over $347,000.

Batelli offered several possible explanations for the rising cost, including a change in Bergen County Prosecutor policy saying that police officers must be present at court proceedings.

According to Batelli, the policy was changed in 2010 in an attempt to save money. However, for 2012, the prosecutor reinstated the rule, saying that cases without officers present were not judiciously fair to the defendant, he said.

The township “does not have the authority” to change the prosecutor’s rule, he said.

Batelli also cited some reasons ticketing may have gone up, including an e-ticketing system that allows officers to write and process summonses more quickly. Though officials cited a bump in revenue to the township from the increased number of tickets in 2012 – summonses made the township about $500K last year – ticket-writing also bumps up the amount of police overtime needed.

Without considering court costs, Batelli said the OT of the department is actually low for its size. And, he said the PD has procedures in place to help reign in overtime spending.

For example, he said, a contract agreement negotiated between the PBA and mayor at the end of 2011 knocked down the court overtime hours officers receive. Previously, cops who spent longer than two hours in court automatically got paid four hours of overtime, “even if they were there for two hours and five minutes,” Batelli said. Now, they get paid for the amount of time they are there, without an automatic “two-four” bump, he said.

Batelli also said overtime requests must be approved by three levels of management, and police work schedules are often rearranged in order to avoid overtime costs.

“During Hurricane Sandy, we only spent $9,000 in overtime,” Batelli said. “Considering it was a 13-day event with probably the highest call volume we’ve received for a single event over the past five years, that [is relatively low],” and due mostly to rearranging schedules, he said. 

The chief also brought up seized monies from arrests that netted the PD $3M in 2012. Cops can use that money to purchase certain items without affecting the budget. Police are planning to use that money to buy new weapons for the department, in-car video cameras and 10 new PCs, he said.

The council twice attempted to reduce the budgeted amount of overtime pay for 2013 from $500,000 to something less, but both votes failed. Council members cited irregular patterns in arrest, ticket and overtime statistics over the past three years when voting against the budget cut.

The council did take several thousand dollars out of the PD’s 2013 operating budget, which, without salaries, was requested at $407,477, for other expenses.

At the hearing, Batelli and council members agreed that increased communication this year could help track and streamline spending. The chief agreed to quarterly appearances in front of the township council to discuss finances.

The ongoing township budget hearings will continue Saturday morning at 9 a.m. with a council review of the Mahwah Fire Department.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Kevin February 22, 2013 at 04:00 PM
The only thing I ask as a resident is that these arrests be printed in the local paper. If arrests have gone up there is no need for there to be a caption stating "No activity reported" in the paper. Whatever the reason the arrests are not printed in the blotter I hope it can be resolved so the residents can be informed as to what really is taking place in Mahwah and how important this department is to the success of this township moving forward with the growth that is planned.
deer07430 February 22, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Kevin, my thoughts exactly.
Bob February 22, 2013 at 06:20 PM
The Mahwah police have traditionally provided no information to local papers, the Mahwah News years ago managed to squeeze a watered down admission that 'something happened sometime' during the week, they would give up the most minor arrests. I bet they hide a lot more than they show. More sketchy than the high school kids they mostly bust, the classic suburban cop tough guy routine to scared 17 year olds. Send the MPD to Newark or East Orange or Irvington for a week. Lets see how tough they are when there are actual threats involved rather than patrolling suburban bliss while justifying their budgets.
Alan Dakota February 22, 2013 at 07:48 PM
All of the larger arrest seem to be posted in The Patch though.
TommyB February 22, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Bob, I'm sure the men and women of the MPD are tougher than a guy who sits at home behind a screen name and talks trash in the internet. I've been a resident for about 6 years now and I'm very satisfied with the service they provide.
lori dorie February 22, 2013 at 10:42 PM
The articles posted on Patch are fine for the people who have computers. There are MANY people in our town who are senior citizens who do not use computers and rely on the local papers to keep them up to date on what is happening in their neighborhoods.
mah_wah February 23, 2013 at 07:34 AM
Hey Bob, I am unsure as to why the MPD chooses to leave their actions out of the newspaper blotter; however, I am well aware that the last sentence of your statement is simply unfair. Are you personally out there on the streets risking your own life to ensure others' lives are not put into danger? I highly doubt that. I know Mahwah is definitely not comparable to Newark/East Orange/Irvington, (mind you, those are cities, and Mahwah is a town...) but that does not mean that the same risks that are found in those cities are not at all prevalent in Mahwah. Sure, Mahwah is a wonderful town overall, as I have grown up and lived here for my entire life, but there are MANY things that happen in town that require the MPD to be strong. The "actual threats" in the aforementioned towns happen here too, just not as frequently... there are still drug arrests, shootings, domestics, burglaries, aggravated assaults... to name a few. The crime rate in our town is not as high as those cities for 1. Mahwah is a suburban community and not a CITY and 2. the MPD does an excellent job protecting and serving our community to keep crime down as much as possible. They deserve a justified budget just as any other workers do.
Andy Schmidt February 23, 2013 at 01:03 PM
Why would you wish for Newark or East Orange? If you think those conditions are a model to thrive for, I'm sure property there is cheaper - go ahead. I'd rather want the police RIGHT HERE, continuing to keeping those kind of problems OUT of Mahwah. Local PDs don't HAVE to deal with the same crime rate BECAUSE they are doing a good job nipping it in the butt EARLY. We are paying for crime PREVENTION so that crime FIGHTING doesn't end up costing us 10 times that in policing and loss of property values (in addition to non-monetary cost of the loss of quality of living). I do remember the death of a Paramus officer several years ago, and let's not forget the vehicle stop of another (female) Paramus officer that almost ended in another dead cop. Whenever I read about the amount of money (or drugs) seized, I'm relieved to find out that the perp didn't decide to put up a fight as (s)he was stopped. If you think it's an easy job for good money, then why don't you grab that opportunity?
Kevin February 23, 2013 at 02:10 PM
Bob your thoughts are foolish to say the least. I know several officers in Mahwah and if they worked in those cities they would be just as effective. The other side of the coin here is if an officer from one of those cities worked here and had to deal with you, I bet you would be complaining to the chief that the officer was to tough on you. One of the reasons we as a township are not like those cities is because of the police dept and the job they do. We are next to NY and you would not believe the amount of drugs that are transported up and down Rt 17 feeding our state. At any time our police dept stop these vehicles it could have tragic results. Instead of harping on what you think they are not be thankful for what they are. A great department.
roy harper February 26, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Mahwah cops deserve credit due to the fact that Rt 17 is a thoroughfare for a great deal of transients, drug runners and overall degenerates. Every time they pull over a speeding lunatic in a hoopty they are rolling the dice. Plus I've lived in town since '93 and have never gotten a ticket because I am a resident with a clean license.
Mona Lot March 11, 2013 at 10:26 AM
Why do the police get to keep 3M dollars confiscated from perps while our taxes have to be increased,why isn't the money put into the towns accounts to offset some of the ridiculous amount of overtime by them and ease some of the DPW issues with recycling?
Andy Schmidt March 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM
Because the law restricts the precise purposes for which the moneys may be used.
ROUTE 17 March 13, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Police Officers in Mahwah & other cities/towns/borough put their lives on the line every time they are on patrol. An occupation they "choose." Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate them for it. However, the benefits they receive in Mahwah are slightly out of control: Unlimiited Paid sick time? There is at least 1 officer abusing that benefit for the last few years-that is 1 reason the taxes go up. Another reason for increased taxes; Court Over-Time Costs; they schedule their court dates to be on the days off & they get paid overtime (1.5 x's their base). The police are appreciated but not when taxpayers are abused. Sounds similar to domestic violence....
Pete Malvasi March 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM
The Patch especially in Mahwah has been excellent and better coverage and better writing than the papers. I can say for a fact as well the paper reporters act unskilled and unknowing when it comes to reporting basic issues in town's even when those are clear and don't require a major investigation. But soon most people will get their news on line and there will be a lot more accountability by local governments in being far more transparent. Ashame the papers serve the public so poorly.
Jonathan N. Marcus March 18, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Mona: In response to your post from last week, the civil forfeiture laws are quite detailed in NJ. Property ceased in connection with criminal activity in Mahwah can ultimately be returned to the Mahwah PD, where it can then be used for specified purposes under NJ law in furtherance of law enforcement activities. Unfortunately, the funds cannot simply be given to the Township. Nor can they be used indiscriminately by the Mahwah PD. NJ law dictates the precise uses that can be made for such properties and there is an oversight process for such uses.
Richard Levine March 26, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Mr. Marcus, So what exactly can they be used for?????
Richard Levine March 26, 2013 at 02:23 AM
The FBI crime stats per capita in Mahwah around 4 compared to around 12 in Ramsey. Three times what the crime rate is in Mahwah. (However, the FBI clarifies that you must do a complete analysis when comparing the stats between different cities.) However, compare the crime reports in the Mahwah Patch versus the reports in the Ramsey Patch. I believe that in the spot check I did, Mahwah Patch reporting far exceeds the reporting being done in Ramsey. Is all this possible overreporting good for the community??? Are they just scaring the citizens? Are they scaring home buyers and lowering property values?
Jonathan N. Marcus March 26, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Richard: While a criminal or municipal law attorney might have more detailed knowledge of this issue, my understanding is that in order for a municipal police department to utilize forfeited funds, NJ law requires that they first must establish a Law Enforcement Trust Account into which any funds will be placed. Since this is a trust account, the funds placed therein do not revert to the municipal treasury, but remain in the trust fund until used. The funds can only be used for "law enforcement purposes" which is specifically defined under NJ law. When the municipal police department wishes to make use of such funds, they must document such requested use in writing and then await the approval of the county prosecutor before such funds can then be used.
Jonathan N. Marcus March 26, 2013 at 05:36 PM
As a continuance to my prior post: "Law enforcement purpose" under NJ law means a purpose which is calculated to enhance a law enforcement agency's ability to conduct criminal investigations, surveillance, arrests and prosecutions and to respond more fully to the effects of crime and, for purposes of these rules, shall be beyond that allocated by the law enforcement agency's annual budget. A law enforcement purpose shall include expenditures to defray the costs of protracted or complex investigations; to educate the public in crime prevention techniques: to provide additional technical assistance or expertise, which may, for example, include participation in funding the purchase of Statewide automated fingerprint identification equipment, an automated uniform offense and arrest report system, the purchase of surveillance and undercover transportation and investigation equipment, and computer hardware and software to enhance the coordination and sharing of information among the law enforcement agencies of a county and the State; to provide matching funds to obtain Federal law enforcement enhancement grants, or for such other purposes as the Attorney General may from time to time authorize.

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