New Jersey Mall Boosts Security

CLIFTON ? Passaic County Sheriff's officers will be a more frequent sight at the Clifton Commons, where 911 calls are sapping the attention of city police.

Sheriff Jerry Speziale told the City Council on Tuesday night that his force also will start patrolling Riverfront Center, a new retail strip on Route 3 across from the Commons.

Last year police logged 1,280 calls from the Commons, said police Lt. Jeffrey Camp, with crank calls making up 10.3 percent of total Commons 911 calls. Mayor James Anzaldi also said many of the calls were of low importance, like crank 911 calls made by children or people who had locked keys in their car.

Several council members said the city pays a large portion of county taxes, and it's only fair for the Sheriff's Department to increase its presence in Clifton.

Clifton paid about 20 percent of the county tax levy in 2006, according to county spokeswoman Dolores Choteborsky.

Sheriff's officers have already been patrolling the Commons for a few months at the request from the city police chief, Speziale said after the meeting. He'll now ask his officers to increase patrols, he said, which may mean a presence every half-hour instead of every hour.

But whether sheriff's officers could now start answering some Clifton Commons 911 calls isn't clear, Sheriff's Department spokesman Bill Maer said Wednesday. "We're trying to work out a system that'll be a work in progress," Maer said.

Speziale said he plans to buy a $58,000 surveillance tower for use in mall parking lots across the county. The tower would attach to a pickup truck and rise 75 feet. "It looks like a spaceship," he said.

Clifton police have a sport utility vehicle dedicated to patrolling the Commons, mostly during business hours, said Detective Capt. Robert Rowan. That unit has one to two officers, depending on the time. Some stores at the Commons hire off-duty Clifton police officers during peak shopping hours, and others have full-time private security employees working indoors, Rowan said. The mall also has its own security vehicle that drives around the area, he said.

A spokeswoman for AMC Theaters said the company hires security guards for its theater at the Commons.

Related Retail Corp., listed on the mall's Web site as manager and developer of the Clifton Commons, could not be reached for comment.