In the second part of a two-part interview with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider, Attorney General Jeff Chiesa spoke about allocating resources, the joyride on the Parkway involving state troopers and cracking down on consumer fraud.
When it comes to deciding where to commit resources, Chiesa said it comes down to efficiency and achieving the greatest impact as possible. As attorney general, he said he gets to choose some of the priorities but many are inherent with the job. “A lot of them are things that any attorney general would do,” said Chiesa citing “violent crime work, making sure we’re taking as many illegal guns of the streets as we can, making sure that we’re dealing with drug issues.”
Last month, Chiesa announced criminal charges against the state troopers who led a high-speed escort down the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike in March 2012. The charges are third and fourth degree tampering with and falsifying public records, mainly license plates. He said that he and State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes took the necessary steps to address a public perception that the state police was not acting appropriately.
“People who are in that organization have great courage,” said Chiesa. “And what bothers me the most is that we focus a lot of attention on a very, very small number, two in this case and a few others who have administrative charges, which damages the reputation of an outstanding division that does incredible work everyday.”
A more recent speeding event involved a motorcade carrying Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his staff traveling on New Jersey highways to attend a fundraiser. Chiesa said he and the state police have nothing to do with decisions relating to the transport of Gov. Romney, saying “I think Gov. Romney has secret service details.”
Chiesa and his office have made a concerted effort to crack down on consumer-related offenses whether it be scams like cash for gold, false home repair promises, price gouging or fake charities. Without question, he said he wants to send a message out to be would-be offenders.
“We want everybody to know if you’re going to do business here fairly, terrific. If you’re going to try to cheat people, we’ll come after you, consumer affairs will come after you first and, if need be, criminal justice will get a referral and we’ll bring criminal charges as well.”
Last week, Camden’s mayor Dana Redd announced the formation of a new county police force — the Camden Metro Police Division. Consequently, the plan will set off a layoff plan of the city’s police force. Camden had one of the most violent months on record this past July with 13 homicides. According to Chiesa, the spike in crime might have something to to do with a drug bust that occurred about two months.
“We took a lot of drug dealers off the street and now some people are vying, jockeying for position. So there’s some intra-gang violence going on there. What we need to do is make sure our officers are prepared and safe and are able to go out and deter this kind of conduct.”
As for the reorganization that is taking place within the Camden police force, Chiesa said that is a decision for the local community.
“I encourage any of the communities to do in a way that puts them in the best position to keep their citizens safe. We’ll continue, as we can, to provide them with intelligence and with support from the state police and, as needed, surges will go into some of these communities.”