TRENTON - As part of Trenton's government makeover, the newly elected mayor has appointed a new top cop, and he has big plans for the department.
Ernest Parrey Jr. is a familiar face in the Trenton Police Department. "The one difference between myself and these other directors is I'm home grown," he says.
Three years to the day after the 25-year veteran of the local police force decided to retire, he agreed to team up with new Mayor Eric Jackson to help relaunch the city's government.
"I was apprehensive to say the least," he says. "When I left this organization, it was almost double in size." Much of the force was let go in 2011.
In 2013, the city had a record number of murders. This year, the Times of Trenton reports the city's per capita murder rate is higher than Detroit, Philadelphia and Newark.
Gangs, drugs and blight continue to make life on Trenton's streets painful for city residents. Parrey says improving quality-of-life issues will remain a core focus of the department, but he says until citizens and the department get on the same page nothing is going to improve.
The new director believes young people no longer see a system that works for them, and he's ready to change that, with a new ward-based system. A lieutenant in each ward will focus on building a relationship with the community.
New Jersey State Police continue to help with patrols, but Director Parrey says a new class of recruits coming in the fall will help with staffing.