Jefferson Township Police Department
The Jefferson Township Police Department protects and serves the people of Jefferson Township (Morris County) New Jersey, which can be divided into two distinct, geographical sections: Milton/Oak Ridge and Lake Hopatcong. Each section has its own complement of a first-aid squad, fire company and set of elementary schools, the High School/Middle School complex being located on the Milton/Oak Ridge side of town.
The majority of addresses in the Milton section of the township are classified under the Oak Ridge zip code (which is shared with a portion of West Milford Township), with a smaller portion of Milton addresses classified under the Newfoundland zip code (which is shared with portions of West Milford and Rockaway Townships). Addresses in Lake Hopatcong are classified under either the Lake Hopatcong zip code (not to be confused with the neighboring municipality of Hopatcong Borough-Sussex County) or the Wharton Borough zip code. The Jefferson Township Municipal Building, Middle School, High School, Recycling Center, and school bus depot are all located in close proximity to each other on the Oak Ridge/Milton side of Jefferson, positioned approximately 3 ½ miles from the boundary between the two halves of the township, essentially the middle of the Township.
The Township of Jefferson is 44 square miles, located in the northwestern part of New Jersey, and the northernmost town in Morris County. The Township was named after former United States President, Thomas Jefferson, and was formed as a Township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 11, 1804, from portions of Pequannock Township and Roxbury Township. The Township's Police Department was formed on a part time basis in 1938 when Preston King was appointed as a part time Police Chief. In 1950 the Township Committee decided that Jefferson needed a full time police department. Prior to 1950 Police Services for the Township were also provided by the New Jersey State Police; State Troopers from Netcong State Police Barracks covered calls on the Lake Hopatcong side of town, and State Troopers from Newfoundland State Police Barracks covered calls on the Milton/Oak Ridge side of town. In 1950, Carl Carlson was appointed by the Township Committee to be the first full time Chief of Police. Chief Carlson was in charge of a handful of part-time police officers, including Russell Felter (father of the Township’s current Mayor) who later succeeded Chief Carlson.
The following have served as Chief of Police. Preston King 1938-1949, Carl Carlson 1950-1968, Russell Felter 1968-1983, Robert Mosedale 1983-1985, Kenneth Wilsusen (acting) 1985-1986, George Stamer 1986-1993, James Leach 1993-1999, John Palko 1999-2008, Kevin Craig 2008-2015.
The original Police Headquarters was located on State Highway Route 15 South, currently an auto dealership, on the Lake Hopatcong side of town, not far from the Jefferson Fire Company #2 fire station, where the Police Department sometimes used the upstairs for meetings and such.
The Township’s population slowly increased from 10,000 citizens to 22,000 (according to the 2010 census), and with that came the demand for additional police services. As Jefferson Township is known as the “Recreation Capital of New Jersey,” the population of the Township also increases during the summer due to tourism, residents with summer homes in Jefferson, and people with boats and other watercraft looking for a good time on Lake Hopatcong.
In the early days of the police department, the overall structure was very disorganized. When the Jefferson Township Police Department was first formed, there were no specialized divisions or bureaus, and an officer’s duties included everything from traffic to homicide. There was also no dispatcher for the department back then as the Township could not afford one. The department received its dispatches from the Town of Dover Police Department. Under that arrangement, if a Jefferson Township resident needed a police officer, they had to call Dover Town Police to have a Jefferson Township Police Officer dispatched to them. Later on, with the help of Jefferson residents, the police got their first radio and police cars, commencing the expansion of the department.
In 1958, the number of officers increased. In 1972, police headquarters was moved to its present location on Weldon Road (one of two main roads that connect the two sides of the Township) in the Milton/Oak Ridge section of town. Jefferson Township Police headquarters is part of the Municipal Complex, which sits on beautiful, park-like grounds, sharing a parking lot with the public library, and is located less than an eighth of a mile down Weldon Road from the high school and middle school.
A unique thing about the police department’s operation pertains to its management of calls throughout the Township, which has a geographical layout consisting of 44 square miles of land. Of the 44 square miles, 39.132 square miles is land (with roughly 200 miles of roads) and 3.976 square miles is water and natural boundaries that separate the two sections of the community. In addition to the Township roads the police are responsible, the following major roadways also fall within the Township’s jurisdiction:
Berkshire Valley Road in the northeast section of the Township (officially County Route 513) is one of two roads that connect the two sides of Jefferson Township. Berkshire Valley Road runs from Roxbury Township in Morris County to West Milford Township in Passaic County, and passes through Jefferson Township for approximately 9 miles, starting at Minnisink Road in the Lake Hopatcong side of town, crossing State Route 15, and ending a short distance past the Ridge Road/Chamberlain Road intersection where its name changes to Oak Ridge Road as it enters West Milford Township in Passaic County and continues out to Route 23.
State Route 15 in the southwest section of the Township, is a 19.16 mile long highway that goes from Frankford Township in Sussex County to the Town of Dover in Morris County, and passes through the Lake Hopatcong side of Jefferson for approximately 5 1/2 miles.
State Route 23 in the northeast section of the Towhship, is a 52.63 mile long highway that goes from Verona Township in Essex County to the border of New York in Montague Township, Sussex County, and passes through Jefferson Township on the Milton/Oak Ridge side as it crises-crosses along the Morris/Passaic county line. Portions of the southbound lanes of Route 23 between Clinton Road and Greenpond Road are within Jefferson Township's jurisdiction, including some business in the wide center median.
State Route 181 in the southwest section of the Township, is a 7.47 mile long roadway that runs from Sparta Township in Sussex County to its end in Jefferson Township, where it intersects with the Espanong Road interchange of Route 15, in the Lake Hopatcong section of the Township. Approximately 2 miles of Route 181 are within the Jefferson Township borders.
Interstate 80 also passes through the southern tip of the Township very briefly, without any interchanges (the closest exits are 33 and 34 in neighboring Wharton Borough).
Back in the early days of the police department, traveling from one side of the Township to the other used to take at least 30 minutes, with lights and sirens. However, due largely to roadway and police equipment improvements and upgrades, such a trip can now be made in 10 minutes or less. The Police Department currently has four squads of officers who work the road, each squad consisting of a sergeant, a corporal and four police officers, and there is one squad working at any given time 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To lessen the necessity of having a police officer travel from one side of town to the other to answer a call, and to lessen the overall response time for all calls, each squad of police officers is divided up so that each side of town has 2-3 officers on patrol.
In addition to the miles and miles of roadways in Jefferson Township, there are also several lakes, including Lake Hopatcong (the largest manmade Lake in New Jersey), Lake Shawnee, Lake Winona and Lake Forest (in the Lake Hopatcong section), and Cozy Lake, Longwood Lake, White Rock Lake, and Lake Swannanoa (in the Milton/Oak Ridge section). Calls involving boats and other watercraft on Lake Hopatcong are generally handled by New Jersey State Police Marine Division, with the assistance of Jefferson Township’s Police, Fire and First Aid resources when required. However, emergencies that occur at any of the other much smaller lakes around the Township are handled jointly between the Jefferson Township Police Department, Fire Departments and First Aid squads, sometimes with the aid of outside resources when required.
Jefferson Township is not a dangerous place by any means and has consistently enjoyed a statistically low crime rate based on the New Jersey Uniform Crime Report; however, that does not mean there is no crime. The biggest problem the police dealt with in the early days was the burglary of summer homes, and, because of this, many folks stopped having summer homes in the Township. Another problem was commercial break-ins, which happens with less frequency now due to electronic security systems. Today, the most frequent crime within the community is criminal mischief or vandalism. The most serious crimes tend to be vehicle burglaries, followed by home burglaries, averaging 60-70 per year. The Township of Jefferson, however, has an average crime rate based on its population.
By ordinance, the police department is technically a division of the Department of Public Safety, under the direction of the Director of Public Safety (a position generally held by the Mayor). The department now consists of many bureaus and divisions, including the patrol division, detective bureau, community services bureau, communications/IT, records bureau and court security division. The Command Staff currently includes the Chief and Captain. In addition to the Command Staff, the department has three Lieutenants and six Sergeants, culminating in 37 full-time, sworn police officers, which includes five detectives. We also have two Class 2 special officers (both of whom are retired police officers from other jurisdictions) who comprise the Court Security division. Jefferson Police’s civilian staff consists of four full-time dispatchers, four part time dispatchers, two full-time Records Clerks, one part-time Records Clerk, and one full time Administrative Assistant (Chief’s Office).
The Jefferson Township Police Department would like to thank Ed Azar for compiling this information and Retired Chief James Leach for providing much of the information.