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Mayor Jen Asay’s remarks at Congressman Tom Kean’s February 22, 2024 Crime Roundtable

Thank you, Congressman Kean, for creating this platform and for the opportunity to speak. 
On January 23rd, 3 weeks after being sworn-in as Bernards Township Mayor, I made an official statement at our Township Committee meeting on the Public Safety topic, specifically pertaining to resident concerns of burglaries, break-ins, and thefts that occurred in our town.  

Bernards Township has been noted for many years as being one of the safest towns in NJ by independent organizations, but our residents are concerned by the uptick of home burglaries associated with car thefts that began in the summer of 2023.  In Bernards Township, resident safety is our highest concern and expectation of our community. While this issue affects many towns and flows from policy choices made at higher levels of government over which Bernards itself has no control, I assured residents that we took immediate action and continue to take action to protect our residents.
As I attended a police presentation, one of many, on January 18th to a neighborhood that was repeatedly targeted by criminals who burglarized homes to steal cars, I learned from one of our Detectives that a Bernards Twp stolen vehicle was indeed identified in Ghana, signaling the potential federal jurisdiction and need to stop the exportation and thus disrupting the demand of these stolen vehicles. Let me highlight action we have taken to date and what’s in-process:
Our Police Department 
Under the leadership of our Police Chief Jon Burger, our police department increased its patrols to deter and combat these sorts of crimes in locations and at times when they tend to occur. This includes our Chief and his leadership also completing early hour patrols. Our BTPD created and implemented 3 new tools for our community. These include a Home Security Checklist, Awareness of police car features, and CityProtect, a new online platform.  Many neighborhood presentations, at the request of residents, have been completed by our police department, including a Town Hall presentation being held today at 7 pm. 
Bernards Township Committee
The Township Committee authorized and brought forward the planned purchase of APLRs that are in the months-long process of installation. The Township Committee is also in preliminary budget discussions that include the likely increase of headcount to our police department and other safety-related investments.  We are working to adopt a town ordinance that protects our residents as well as working with our state Assemblywomen LD-21 (Matsikoudis & Munoz A3806) to support legislation that they have recently introduced.   
I held a Zoom call with Senator Bramnick on January 25th to discuss the state perspective on this topic. On February 5th, the Mayors from the Somerset Hills towns (Bedminster, Bernards Twp, Bernardsville, Bridgewater, Far Hills, and Peapack/Gladstone) met and formed the Somerset Hills Public Safety Committee where we are working together with our Police Chiefs to synergize our local efforts on this topic, including meeting today. I am engaged with the Conference of Mayors on this topic and working to develop a subcommittee to focus on bail reform and programs for youth.
I have to thank our outstanding police department, led by Chief Burger, for their tireless work, day in and day out of keeping our residents safe.  
I hope that you can see this is an issue that I am passionate about. While many think of Bernards Township as an affluent town, I know it to be a group of people who have worked hard to earn what they have. They deserve the right to live without fear of someone coming into their home – especially with their family present, shattering their sense of personal security, of feeling safe in their own home, for a criminal to just take their things, and without any consequences.    

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