Measures Will Require Greater Crime Reporting from Hospitals, Allow for Expanded Duties for Junior Firefighters
TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti which would make important changes to existing law to enhance New Jersey’s public safety were signed into law today by Governor Christie.
The measures would require hospitals to report certain injuries to local and State police, and would allow members of junior firefighters’ auxiliary groups to perform nonhazardous support duties at fire sites.
“As someone who’s devoted his entire legislative career to improving New Jersey’s public safety response, I can tell you that the job is never done, and you have to be willing to make changes from time to time to keep New Jerseyans safe,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, and chairman of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “Through these bills, we’ll have better reporting of potential criminal action from our State’s hospitals, and we’ll be able to engage young volunteers to perform nonhazardous services at fire sites. These bills, though relatively modest, will have a major impact on public safety in the Garden State.”
The first new law, sponsored by Senator Girgenti and Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, requires hospitals to report injuries that result from a firearm, destructive device, explosive device or other weapon to both State and local police. Under the previous law, hospitals were only required to report such injuries to local police or State police. By requiring that both State and local police agencies be notified, the new law will help police agencies track crime across jurisdictional lines, and will facilitate more cooperation from police agencies to pool their resources and information in tracking down a criminal.
“Changing the law to require hospitals to report to both State and local law enforcement regarding injuries inflicted by a potentially lethal weapon makes sense,” said Senator Girgenti. “Often, these injury reports from hospitals prove to be an invaluable tool to help police track down suspected criminal activity. By engaging the local and State police forces when someone comes into an emergency room with a gunshot wound or other injury inflicted by a deadly weapon, we’re less likely to lose track of the culprit outside city limits.”
The second new law, S-1917, sponsored by Senator Girgenti and Senator Bob Gordon, D-Bergen, permits members of a junior firefighters’ auxiliary group over the age of 16 to perform non-hazardous support duties at a fire site in certain cases. Under the law, local municipal officials will be required to provide the same level of insurance for volunteer junior firefighters that they provide for adult volunteer firefighters. Senator Girgenti said that engaging younger volunteers in a support role at the fire site allows adult firefighters to focus on the dangerous work of fighting fires, while giving younger volunteers a deeper understanding of the duties and responsibilities of their adult counterparts.
“Not only does expanding the support duties of junior volunteer firefighters make logistical sense, but it could also serve as an incentive to attract more volunteers,” said Senator Girgenti. “So many local volunteer firehouses are experiencing a shortage of willing volunteers, and the junior firefighters’ auxiliaries help recruit the next generation of dedicated men and women to serve their communities. By engaging younger volunteers in a more active role in support of adult firefighters at the site of a fire, we can get more younger people interested in firefighting while still maintaining safety standards to keep them out of harm’s way.”
Both bills received unanimous approval from the Legislature and were given final legislative approval last month.