NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A newly-released city memo confirms officially for the first time that changes were made to the motor vehicle jurisdiction of the Rutgers Police Department in December 2013.
The city’s police department has been skirting the issue for months, saying the maps are “always” changing and constantly revisited.
But a new memo obtained via the state’s public records law confirms that New Brunswick Police Director Anthony Caputo did in fact restrict the RUPD’s jurisdiction in early December.
“While Director Caputo did reduce the area the RUPD could issue Motor Vehicle tickets in the City, the RUPD will still maintain full police powers throughout the City to effect arrests, issue City ordinance violations and deal with quality of life issues throughout the City,” reads the memo from a spokesman for the City of New Brunswick.
“The NBPD will be responsible for enforcing motor vehicle laws on most City streets,” reads Marchetta’s December 27 memo, to the City Council and copied to the city’s embattled Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin.
Previously, Rutgers Police have severely cut back on DWI enforcement since their jurisdiction was cut back. Rutgers Police are not currently permitted to pull vehicles over on Easton Avenue, the major stretch of bars and taverns near the campus.
Sources say the department’s New Brunswick (DWI) numbers in New Brunswick are a far cry from what they were before the changes.
An Open Public Records Act request for Marchetta’s emails yeilded hundreds of documents, including the December 27 memo that acknowledged the changes in RUPD jurisdiction.
On Friday March 14, under pressure from a lawsuit, New Brunswick handed over at least some of the maps in question.
Other documents obtained by New Brunswick Today confirmed there were changes made to the RUPD’s motor vehicle jurisdiction on December 6.
At issue was the RUPD’s Title 39 authority, the power to pull over vehicles, issue traffic summonses, and making arrests for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
According to Marchetta’s unusual press statement, Caputo cut back the RUPD’s authority to do motor vehicle stops in an effort to help Rutgers Police better serve students.
“By focusing on criminal and quality of life issues while on city streets, rather than motor vehicle infractions, the RUPD is better able to protect and serve Rutgers students,” Caputo said in the March 5 release.
Marchetta’s early statements assign the changes to the UMDNJ merger, though it is not explained why the RUPD jurisdiction shrunk, rather than expanded.
“Since Rutgers acquired UMDNJ, the two departments have had conversations about redefining each department’s responsibilities.”
The release described a growing university with shrinking police jurisdiction to enforce motor vehicle regulations.
“With the increase in the number of properties owned by Rutgers due to the recent merger with UMDNJ, Director Caputo felt this change was in the best interest of the City to allow RUPD to concentrate its efforts on its students and quality of life issues dealing with students rather than Motor Vehicle issues on City streets,” read the memo.
“The RUPD still has Motor Vehicle powers on numerous City streets near the College Avenue campus and on campus roads.”
Sources say RUPD has since shifted its DUI enforcement efforts to Pisacataway and East Brunswick, since December, when the high-traffic Easton Avenue corridor was removed from the RUPD’s territory.
Russell Marchetta has at least three relatives working in the administration of Governor Chris Christie, including his Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd.
O’Dowd was nominated in 2013 to become the next attorney general, but the prospect of a confirmation hearing amid the George Washington Bridge scandal caused Christie to back down, leaving current AG John Hoffman in an acting role.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.