Mayor: More Officers Will Patrol Downtown Late Night

Hired cops would patrol bar areas from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights in July and August; council asked to consider long-term solution.

Those who head into downtown Morristown later in the evening on weekends know the bars and restaurants catering to the masses are doing pretty brisk business.

But, with more business comes potentially more issues. Mayor Tim Dougherty, noting Morristown's rising star, said, "these are good problems to have."

At Tuesday's council meeting, Dougherty said he would be hiring four additional officers to help patrol the business district from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays in July and August. The cost, coming from the police department's budget, would be about $7,000 a month, Business Administrator Michael Rogers said. 

Dougherty said downtown at night has become "a multi-generational experience."

With the different age groups both visiting and now living in the business district, new issues have risen. Crowds of hundreds often spill onto the streets from the bars after Last Call, with only eight or so Morristown Police officers on scene to make sure order remains.

The money for the hired officers, Dougherty said, is available as there are still police officer positions to be filled.

Several council members wondered if it was appropriate, however, to use taxpayer money to pay for the hired officers, and not ask businesses to bear the burden.

Rogers called the decision "an enforcement issue," noting at other public events, other officers would be hired for support. "It's clearly a public safety issue," he said. "We would fund it."

While the mayor said steps have already been taken to make sure businesses do their part—including the hiring of people to clean the downtown area as well as the issuance of tickets to business owners not keeping their storefronts tidy—he said more needs to be done.

Dougherty suggested the council—over the next two months—work to create an ordinance to fund the long-term placement of additional cops during those busy bar times.

Rogers said the administration could consider hiring officers after August, should the council not come up with a long-term solution.

"Tickets should be issued, penalties will be severe," Dougherty said. "We want people to come and enjoy our downtown."

Timothy A. Jackson June 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM
The commercial properties in the downtown Morristown areas pay far and awy the most taxes. At one time it was over 30%, not including apartments. By now it has to be much more. Public funding of the Police to help manage the side effects of the nightlife industry is appropriate. But this should be given careful review by the council and mayor every year. That also requires knowing when to say "no".
HC June 28, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Why is there a plan for only two months - July and August - when a majority of bar patrons will probably be vacationing? Won't there be increased patronage post Labor Day when the additional four police officers will no longer be on duty?


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