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Putting heat on perps in Washington Park

By CHARLES HACK JERSEY JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Three law enforcement departments are joining forces to police Washington Park, which straddles the border between Union City and Jersey City and has become a favorite haunt for vagrants.

Police chiefs from Jersey City and Union City and the Hudson County sheriff worked out an agreement to better coordinate their patrols.

There are portions of Washington Park on both sides of a section of Paterson Plank Road, between New York and Central avenues. On the Jersey City side is a gazebo, baseball field and open space. On the Union City side, there is a baseball field, picnic area and a playground.

Jersey City Heights Councilman Bill Gaughan approached authorities after residents, represented by a recently formed Washington Park Association, complained that crime and graffiti had gotten worse because the park attracted druggies, gang members, and vagrants.

Loitering ne'er-do-wells would slope off to the other side of Paterson Plank Road from the cops because they knew they would rarely patrol across the border, officials said.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said that since the county police force disbanded in 1996, the county has struggled to patrol county parks on their own.

Now law enforcement efforts are being coordinated around the clock. Each authority will take shifts to patrol both sides of the park, Gaughan said. Joint operations are also being started to improve teamwork.

The Hudson County Sheriff's Offices will also sweep through the park at around 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. to prevent squatters camping out overnight.

Mary Anne Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Washington Park Association, said residents have already noticed an improved police presence in the busy park.

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