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$1.3M in UEZ funds for hiring 30 new cops

By MICHAELANGELO CONTE JERSEY JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

The Jersey City Police Department is getting $1.3 million in state Urban Enterprise Zone funding that will be used to hire 30 new police officers, officials said.

"Making Jersey City safer is the number one priority of my administration, and increasing the number of officers on our streets is a way to reach that goal," said Mayor Jerramiah Healy in a news release yesterday.

"This is one of the most effective ways that our Urban Enterprise Zone dollars can be used to improve the quality of life of our residents." This is the third year the city has sought and received the funding that will pay 80 percent of the total cost of salary, benefits, pension contributions, etc., for the 30 new officers, Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said.

The new cops will be trained at the Jersey City Police Academy at the city's expense. The first 15 are to begin their patrols in January 2009 and the remainder in July 2009. The city will contribute an additional $336,261, Morrill said.

The officers will be assigned to Jersey City's main business areas within UEZ zones, including Central Avenue, Martin Luther King Drive, Ocean Avenue, Newark Avenue, Exchange Place, McGinley Square, Washington Boulevard, Monticello Avenue, Kennedy Boulevard, Newport, West Side Avenue and Route 440, Morrill said.

Healy boasts of having brought the department from 788 sworn officers in 2004, up to its current staffing of 893. That increase came as a result of hiring 300 new officers while normal attrition occurred. Currently, 105 officers in the department are eligible to retire, Morrill said.

The UEZ program was started in 1983 and is administered by the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth and Tourism Commission with the aim of fostering the revitalization of designated urban communities. Under the program, sales tax revenues generated by UEZ businesses are dedicated for use within the zones for economic development projects.
From the initial 10 UEZs that were designated in 1984, the program has grown to 32 zones in 37 municipalities throughout the state. As of May, 2, 248 UEZ projects have been approved at a value of about $765 million in UEZ funds.

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