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Operation Cease Fire

In October 2004 the Strategic Investigations Unit (SIU) was established by Col. Rick Fuentes as an investigative unit to combat the increasing number of firearms assaults in the greater Newark area. The common belief was that aggravated assaults were not investigated with the same vigor as homicides, thereby allowing potential future homicide suspects to remain on the street. In defense of local law enforcement, their available personnel resources were already taxed to the limit which precluded spending adequate time on non-fatal shootings.

In a separate effort, the Greater Newark Safer Cities Initiative, under the guidance of Rutgers University, learned that several other large cities had been employing/experimenting with a program called Operation CeaseFire to combat gun violence. The program calls for a collaborative effort between law enforcement and social services to directly confront the problem. Other important components include crime mapping, potential suspect development through parole/probation records, an open dialog with local clergy and social service providers, and a task force law enforcement approach. In other words, focusing all available resources on the problem under one banner, Operation CeaseFire, with the mantra, “Stop the next shooting.”

During meetings with Rutgers University it became clear that the newly formed New Jersey State Police Strategic Investigations Unit would best fulfill its mission by serving as the law enforcement component of the Operation CeaseFire program. The unit was then populated with investigators from the State Police, Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Parole, Newark Police, Irvington Police, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and began operations on May 1, 2005. Based on input for all involved stakeholders, a 1.9 square mile enforcement zone that straddles the Newark/Irvington line was established. During 2004 there were 91 shootings which resulted in injury and 21 shooting homicides within this zone. Since the unit became operational it has closed 45% of shooting investigations by arrest or warrant (up from 15%), closed 55% of total investigations, confiscated numerous illegal firearms, and developed information that has led to the closure of homicides, shootings, and armed robberies that occurred prior to the unit’s formation. However, the most important successes are that Operation CeaseFire has seen a 30% reduction in shootings within the target zone and the program has gained significant community support.
Due to the success of the operation the target zone has increased to a larger portion of Newark and Irvington, which will statistically double the number of shootings the SIU will be responsible for investigating. It should be noted that nationally known scholar David Kennedy of John Jay College, one of the originators of the Operation CeaseFire concept, visited the New Jersey operation and concluded that our program is among the most active and functioning at the highest level as compared to other cites where this has been attempted (Boston, Chicago, Baltimore). The success of the Newark/Irvington effort, and its budding national recognition by other leading scholars, places the this operation in the position to become the model for this unique urban criminal justice program.

To date all law enforcement in the CeaseFire cities have received extensive training and have established shooting response teams. The shooting response team from their respective CeaseFire cities meet monthly at the Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC) at State Police headquarters to share information on specific shooting incidents, discuss trends, and to exchange criminal intelligence on violent crime. Each city works closely with State Police detectives, referred to as Embedded Intelligence Detectives. The CeaseFire cities have been instrumental in testing and implementing new programs such as NJ Trace, which is the tracing of all crime guns to the original purchaser, and NJ POP, which is real time tracing tracking of shooting incidents. The success of these programs and the establishment of the shooting response teams is an essential part to the Governors Crime Plan. For futher information please contact Lt. John Menafra 609-693-6900 X6776 or DSFC Denise Medea 609-693-6900 x6211.

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