It’s a cliché, but in terms of police activity, Fair Haven cries out for comparison to Mayberry. Crime is almost nil, and the top two categories of calls involve traffic and residential construction: blocked driveways, dumpster placements and the like.
Still, this bedroom community has undergone a rapid growth spurt. There are hundreds of kids — more than at any time in the town’s 104-year history — and more traffic.
“We’re also one of the only towns left where most of the kids ride bikes to school,” said acting police Chief Joe McGovern, who is scheduled to become chief next week.
Which makes pedestrian safety the number-one issue for police, he said. “It’s our job to make sure they’re safe.”
McGovern, who’s slated to be sworn in at Monday night’s borough council meeting, succeeds Darryl Breckenridge, who retired in October.
McGovern, 51, was “the next-senior guy” after Breckenridge, he said, and has served as acting chief for the past seven months. Now his second in command is Lieutenant Robert Townshend, who was also a candidate for the chief’s post, and a strong one, said Mayor Ben Lucarelli and Councilwoman Susan Sorensen.
“We were very blessed in having two great candidates,” said Sorensen. “Joe just has a little more experience.”
Sorensen said she was particularly impressed by McGovern’s efforts during Hurricane Sandy as the borough’s Office of Emergency Management coordinator, an unpaid position he retains.
“He was on top of everything,” she said. “You just got the sense we were taken care of.”
McGovern grew up in Holmdel, and said he chose law enforcement for the same reason many others do: because of the influence a a relative —in his case, a brother-in-law who was a policeman.
He joined the department in 1987, as a part-time dispatcher — a job that no longer exists in the borough, since the dispatching function was shifted to Monmouth County six years ago — but one that he said was valuable in offering both work experience and perspective on the day-to-day work of policing. He became a “special,” or part-time, officer, in 1989, and landed a job as a patrolman in 1991.
McGovern oversees a department of 13 full-time officers, four part-timers, and a budget of about $1.4 million.
McGovern, who lives in town, is married and the father or two boys, both students at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional.