ELIZABETH—There is a serious gang problem in Elizabeth and Mayor J. Christian Bollwage is ignoring it, according to Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow.
Romankow leveled the accusation at a news conference announcing that his office will take control of all homicide investigations in Union County with a new specialized unit.
Previously, homicides were managed by local police departments and investigators from the prosecutor’s office working together. That process has failed to solve a greatly increased number of killings in recent years, prompting Romankow to make the change.
There have been 16 unsolved murders in Elizabeth since the beginning of 2007.
Romankow launched the countywide homicide task force, which is composed of 16 officers from Hillside, Plainfield, Linden, Scotch Plains and Union Township, as well as the county prosecutor’s office and county police department. Five assistant prosecutors also are part of the unit.
Bollwage and the Elizabeth Police Department rejected his invitation to participate the task force, Romankow said.
Both the mayor and Police Director James Cosgrove, a Bollwage appointee, have previously stated that the city does not have a problem with street gangs. Romankow pointed out Elizabeth was the only municipality that failed to respond to the New Jersey State Police gang survey in 2007.
Denial about the gang situation is not the only problem confronting city law enforcement, which has become riddled with politics since Bollwage became mayor.
Bollwage has yet to acknowledge that there is a secret cult-like organization operating with the police department, known as ‘The Family.’ New Jersey’s News 12 I-Team broadcast an undercover videotape showing misconduct among Elizabeth police officers, including public drinking, destroying city property and boasting about shaking down local businesses.