Goal is to Merge Panhandling and Drug Use Enforcement with Addiction Services
Trenton, N.J. – Acting Police Director Steve E. Wilson today announced that the Trenton Police Department (TPD) partnered with Recovery Advocates of America as part of a recent joint operation using addiction and other social services to help address the pervasive panhandling issues in Trenton.
On Nov. 5, 2021, the TPD Daytime Task Force coordinated with members of Recovery Advocates of America who set up a Mobile Outreach Post at the Catholic Youth Organization on S. Broad Street. As part of the operation, the Daytime Task Force conducted a panhandler sweep at various intersections and abandoned dwellings where panhandlers are known to frequent.
Officers located 12 panhandlers on Cass Street, Academy Street, S. Warren Street, Mott Street and other locations. The officers escorted the panhandlers to the Mobile Outreach Post to arrange treatment. More than half of those individuals have since checked into treatment programs throughout New Jersey. Others received counseling and were offered onsite testing for Covid-19, HIV and other infectious diseases.
“This is what we’re talking about when we discuss law enforcement through a public health lens,” said Mayor Gusciora. “Our Directors at HED, Health, and TPD are working closer than ever to make meaningful improvements to our residents’ quality of life. Whether it’s taking down derelict properties to address blight, offering addiction services, or launching more community policing programs, we’re working to address the conditions that foster criminal activity in the first place.”
“This is about taking our neighborhoods and business districts back, block by block,” said Director Wilson. “But this isn’t a problem we can arrest our way out of. Our goal is to make Trenton streets safe and comfortable, and this balanced approach – offering treatment instead of a prison cell – gives us the best chance to address these issues long-term.”
The TPD has received numerous citizen complaints regarding an increase in panhandlers soliciting motorists for money at various intersections throughout Trenton. The panhandlers have also been breaking into abandoned buildings to use as shelter and a place to use illegal narcotics. There have been numerous drug overdoses and fires that have occurred in these abandoned structures, as well as public urination, vehicle burglaries and other issues on private property. Unfortunately, money given to panhandlers is often used to feed alcohol or drug addiction.
The Daytime Task Force, formed by Director Wilson in September with the help of the Mercer County Sheriff's Office and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, has made numerous arrests and issued hundreds of summonses, resulting in a major reduction in panhandling issues during daytime hours. The Daytime Task Force has also identified several abandoned dwellings that are being used by the panhandlers and have coordinated with the Department of Housing and Economic Development to have them boarded up.