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Posted on 05/06/2024
Media Contact:
Jonathan Jaffe
[email protected]
PERTH AMBOY – May 6, 2024 – When Police Chief Larry Cattano joined the force as a rookie in 1991, he recalls the city being a very different place. Crime at all levels was a significant concern; there was a perception that it could just be contained, rather than controlled and minimized.
Fast forward to 2024, and the Perth Amboy Police Department tells a very different story.

Since Cattano’s days as a patrolman, burglary is down 93.7%, rape has been reduced 83.3%, robbery has decreased 91.8%, property crimes have been lowered by 83.2% and aggravated assault has dropped 56%, among many other categories of crime that have also seen significant reductions.
Crime in all of these categories has dropped, even though the population in the four square-mile city surged from 41,940 in 1991 to 55,357 in 2022, according to the U.S. Census.
“Yes, the reduction in crime in Perth Amboy has been staggering and there are a number of factors,” Cattano said. “We have more officers than at any time in this city’s long history and have the approval and budget to hire even more. We have invested heavily in modern-day policing, such as automated license plate readers and less-lethal weapons. And we have officers who represent the diversity of our community. They are on the street, interacting with our residents throughout the day, every day, able to communicate in different languages.”

Mayor Helmin J. Caba said that advanced policing measures and vigilant crime prevention strategies initiated since 2021 have made a significant difference, evident in the FBI’s annual crime reports. In addition, the police department is now funded with a budget backed by a city government that embraces new technologies and training to combat crime. 

“We are now deploying the strategic use of advanced technology, a reinforced focus on community policing, addressing juvenile crime in more compassionate way, and the re-establishment of the D.A.R.E. initiative within our schools,” Mayor Caba said. “These strategic moves further highlight our city's commitment to proactive community engagement and education, especially among our youth.”

High-definition cameras are being installed throughout the city have been a “game changer,” the police chief said, noting new vehicle mounted cameras on all police cruisers now feature automated license plate readers.

Moreover, the police are working with residents who have the “Ring” app, with video footage regularly shared with detectives. Perth Amboy is steadily working on an already funded city-wide fiber network system, with cameras in parks, intersections, public buildings and other places. Such technology also serves as an incredible deterrent, Cattano said.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19th Dist.), who represents Perth Amboy and joined city officials on May 6 to mark the reduction in crime numbers, said public safety has been the cornerstone of Mayor Caba’s administration. 

“From hiring new police and fire personnel and equipment to pedestrian, rail and road safety infrastructure enhancements, I am delighted to join Mayor Caba and Police Chief Cattano to share with the community the investments the city has made to make it a safe place to live, work and raise a family.”

Police Capt. Eddie Padilla, who has been with the department for 25 years, said the increase in manpower and technology has been very impactful, as almost all major crimes cases are now solved and there is a noticeable reduction of crime in the streets.

“With these cameras that we are installing all over the city, it is like we have double the amount of police officers on the streets,” Padilla said. “We now have so many new tools in which to fight crime. Today, if you commit a crime in Perth Amboy, there’s very little chance that you won’t be caught on camera. We are now watching from every street.”

The police department has also taken a closer look at its internal operations, making changes to increase efficiency. More officers have been assigned to the investigative division, for example, while patrol shifts have been re-engineered to ensure the maximum number of officers are on the streets, no matter the time of day, with additional officers deployed during peak times.

Cattano, who took over as police chief in July of 2021, said the department is also using manpower in a more strategic way. For example, parking enforcement officers who traditionally would just write parking tickets have been elevated to Special Police officers, certified by the New Jersey Police Training Commission. They are now authorized to perform routine traffic detail, spectator control and issue summonses for quality-of-life infractions

Police Capt. Michelle McKeon, who has served Perth Amboy for 16 years, said that social media has also been a key factor in solving and deterring crime. When she first joined the force, the common way to report a crime was through a hotline. 

Now, with the police department active on Facebook and Instagram, residents are sharing video, photos and other information that have made it considerably easier for investigators. Moreover, analytics helps the police identify trends in crime, as far as time and location, so manpower can be used more effectively.

“We are building more and more trust, with residents knowing they can provide us with confidential information,” McKeon said. “They know we are looking out for them and their best interests.”

The police have also made significant efforts to recruit officers who best represent the demographics of the city. The department is now looking to hire nine more police officers with the intention that they mesh with the community fabric. Cattano is proud to note the police department has more female officers than the national average.
To further build bridges with the community, the police participate in a Public Safety Advisory Committee, comprising a captain and detective, as well as residents and a representative of the City Council.
“I am very pleased at how far we have come as a police department,” Cattano said. “But when it comes to law enforcement and making your community as safe as possible, you can never rest. 
The Perth Amboy Police Department will continue to innovate, continue to build community relationships and continue to recruit the high caliber of police officers to ensure our hard work inspires the next generation to achieve even more.”

Police Capt. Panagiotis Boulieris, on the force for 21 years, said another reason for the department’s success is the young officers who are now working the streets. “They are hungry. They are diligent. And they want to do a good job for the people of Perth Amboy.”

He added: “People see the slogan `to protect and serve’ on our police cars.  It is a selfless ideal that our department embraces. We have a tremendous attitude, and it is reflected in the fact that the city’s crime rate continues to drop. The people know they can count on us. All of us.”