Police Chief speaks with Westfield Rotarians
Submitted by Dr. D. Michael Hart
Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Westfield. The number one crime issue in Westfield is car thefts. His advice is to lock your cars, take your keys inside and lock your house.
According to the chief, thieves will typically enter Westfield in a stolen car with four or five occupants, including minors. They go up and down the streets, checking door handles for unlocked vehicles. They do not break into cars, and do not “hot wire” them. When they find luxury cars open with the key fob inside, the thief does not need to find the fob – they just push the start button, start the car, and drive off. There have also been incidents where thieves used an unlocked vehicle with no fob inside, to open garage doors gaining access to the home for theft of the keys and vehicles. Due to the combination of a large concentration of luxury vehicles and easy access to highways, Westfield is the perfect place to steal cars according to the chief. He said that Newark is the center of the car thief rings, where the cars are brought and loaded onto ships to be sent overseas for sale.
Chief Battiloro says that he has taken measures to reduce car theft. First is public awareness- he asks residents to lock their cars and houses. Next, the town has mounted 15 license plate readers around town, which are able to scan the license plates and report stolen cars coming into town to the police department. Since they started this process, the car thefts have dropped by 50%.
High speed chases are not very effective because once a car reaches Route 22 or the Parkway, the chase is often discontinued due to high speed safety issues. It is more effective to catch the criminals as they enter town in a stolen car.
The chief also highlighted the current problem with the state’s bail reform measures, which allows for release of criminals on a summons, sometimes within an hour. The dilemma is that poor people cannot afford bail so they would need to stay in prison until the court hearing, which is unfair if they are innocent; but on the other hand, criminals can get out immediately and continue their crime spree. Union County has closed its jail due to the declining prisoner population.
Chief Battiloro says he cannot solve societies problems. There will always be crime, but he said that a combination of police work and alert, careful residents can deter criminals.
Narcotics abuse is another issue in Westfield. Last year there were 14 overdoses in town, in which the police officers were able to revive the person. Two people were revived twice. Every officer carries, and is trained in the use of Narcan – the “narcotic antagonist”. It is more effective to treat the patient immediately rather than wait for an ambulance, and this technique saves lives. They recently arrested one distributor of illegal narcotics.
Every police officer has a body camera on at all times. Westfield instituted this policy under the direction of Chief Battiloro 2 years before it was mandated by the state. Every contact is recorded on video, which may be used in court.
Last year the Westfield Police had 7,000 911 calls, and 58,000 calls for service. The Department has 63 officers and 21 civilians for a total workforce of 84. It is one of the few departments in Union County in which the dispatch center serves as police, fire, medical and DPW.
The Union County Prosecutors office is starting a program called “Safe Space”. Businesses will volunteer to shelter a person who is concerned with their safety. Union County is the first county in the United States to have every municipality agree to this program.
The son of former Westfield Fire Chief Paul A. Battiloro, Chief Battiloro was raised in Westfield and graduated from Westfield High School in 1991 and Clemson University in Clemson, SC in 1995 (BA, History). Upon graduating college, he attended the John H. Stamler Police Academy of Union County, where he graduated #1 in his police officer recruit class.
Chief Christopher Battiloro was officially appointed as the Town of Westfield’s 10th Chief of Police on December 13, 2018. Chief Battiloro is a highly decorated police officer, having been awarded two (2) Life Saving Awards, four (4) Command Citations, a Unit Citation, the Hurricane Sandy and COVID-19 Exceptional Service Awards, and four (4) Certificates of Merit. He is married with three children. He is proud of the Westfield Police Department, and feels it is the best department in the State.
The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website westfieldrotary.com or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at email@example.com.