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Morris prosecutor collecting names of ‘worst of the worst’

January 26, 2010

Morris prosecutor collecting names of ‘worst of the worst’

Local police departments are compiling lists of their towns’ suspected worst criminals as part of a countywide initiative to target them, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi announced Monday.

Bianchi discussed the program Monday evening with about 80 local police and community leaders invited to attend a meeting at the county Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany.

In an interview before the meeting, Bianchi said law enforcement would be “going after the worst of the worst.”

He said the program is part of an expanded effort to combat gang activity among other things. In a letter to local officials sent earlier this month, he said nothing like it ever has been attempted in the state on such a wide scale.

He said it is an extension of efforts to expand and centralize the county prosecutor’s intelligence unit, which he said he began when he took office more than two years ago, and which he said has led to major arrests.

“We’ve asked local agencies to do what we’ve done and use it as a template,” Bianchi said.

Bianchi said police departments have been supplying names of their most “troublesome criminals” – although not all of them have criminal convictions – for the past few months. He would not say how many names have been handed over but said between 20 and 30 percent of those named had charges pending against them.

“They already had cases in our office,” he said.

The program could help prosecutors in plea bargains, Bianchi said, making it less likely for lenient deals to be handed out to people being investigated for other crimes. It also might be lead to investigations being launched, he said. He said the names are checked against other databases containing the names of known gang members.

At least one member of each local police department will be part of a task force, acting as liaisons to the prosecutor’s office. The task force will break into teams to investigate some of the county’s worst criminals, Bianchi said.

Morristown Police Chief Peter Demnitz praised the effort, saying he expects it to lead to the county providing more resources to combat crime. He said that while compiling lists of known criminals might be seen by some as profiling, it’s just good police work.

“When you have a rash of burglaries in town, you look to see who just got out of jail,” Demnitz said. “It’s fundamental police philosophy.”

Suspects who make the list won’t necessarily have criminal convictions, but police are required to have “a reasonable basis” to believe a person is engaged in serious criminal activity, said Capt. Jeff Paul of the Prosecutor’s Office.

“They have to back that up,” Paul said.

He said police could use confidential sources and recorded interviews, among other things.

Hanover Mayor John Sheridan, a retired police officer, said law enforcement agencies always gather information about people suspected to be involved in criminal activity. He said this latest effort just makes it more formal and allows various law enforcement agencies to have access to more information.

“It’s a really good law enforcement practice,” he said.

Bianchi also said he wanted to emphasize his concerns about gang activity in Morris County. He said he has assigned three prosecutors to work solely with the gang task force – to which, he said, none had been assigned before. And he said his office’s expanded intelligence unit has helped facilitate information being passed among law enforcement agencies.

He credited those initiatives with helping in the case of Carlos “Carlito” Gonzalez Jr. of Randolph, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years last year to gun and drug charges. Authorities said he was in charge of a drug trafficking ring and fired five shots in Dover in 2008 at a rival drug dealer.

At Monday’s meeting, authorities showed a film made by purported gang members, showing them gathering at Hedden Park in Randolph. Also shown were interviews of purported gang members filmed by authorities in the Morris County jail. The gang members said they had come to Morris County from other areas because people have money and there are nice things to steal.

“You get nice cars and nice things out of the cars,” one of them said.

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