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Prosecutor Launches Youth-Focused Research Initiative with Police Chiefs

The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is launching a year-long youth research initiative aimed at achieving crime reduction and improving police-community relations in Cumberland County. The project is in collaboration with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Clarus Research; and the Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland police departments. Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, this grant will examine whether problem-oriented policing (POP) strategies, combined with specialized training for law enforcement officers in improved youth interactions, can achieve reduction in youth crime and broader community and officer benefits.

In sum, this grant will provide state-of-the-art training for police officers in Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland as well as an evaluation of this law enforcement initiative at no cost for the county. Bridgeton is eligible to receive $25,000 of grant funding for this project, Millville is eligible to receive $25,000 and Vineland is eligible to receive $36,000 for the project.

Prosecutor Webb-McRae stated: “The Chiefs (Chief Michael Gaimari, Chief Jody Farabella and Chief Pedro Casiano) in Cumberland County have demonstrated a commitment to programs that improve outcomes for at-risk youth. We welcome the opportunity to participate in a project that will continue to improve police/youth relations and further reduce juvenile crime. We thank the project team for making an investment that will benefit Cumberland County youth for years to come.”

As a part of the project, Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland officers will conduct proactive police work across targeted areas in the three communities. Officers will work directly with residents to identify concerns in the community, with a focus on youth crime prevention efforts.

In addition, the grant provides for a comprehensive community survey for youth in Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland. NORC recently launched a baseline version of this survey among residents between 12 to 24 years old in selected households to assess the community’s perception of crime and interactions with police. As part of this grant, selected youth participants 12 to 24 years old will receive $20 in the form of an e-gift card or check for completing the survey. The project launched October 1, 2021 and runs until fall 2022.

At the conclusion of the project, NORC will analyze project survey data and police department data to determine the impact of the intervention on crime in Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland. In a year, a follow-up community survey will also be conducted to assess changes in perceptions of the police and crime, youth interaction with police officers, youth perception of police legitimacy, police officers’ understanding of youth crime and their experience interacting with youth in the community. The follow-up survey will be completed toward the end of the initiative in fall 2022.