|By Donald Wittkowski, The Press of
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 02, 2012--ATLANTIC CITY -- Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the scene of two fatal carjackings in the past two years, is making $5 million in security improvements to the parking garage and other parts of the casino.
New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck said the Taj Mahal is significantly upgrading its technology by switching from old analog surveillance cameras to new digital models.
New cameras are being installed in the parking garage, on the casino floor and in other parts of the Boardwalk property to enhance safety. In addition, the massive parking garage is getting new lights, a new paint job and is being power-washed to improve its appearance, Rebuck said.
Rebuck compared analog technology to an old-fashioned VCR. Digital technology would provide sharper images and better quality surveillance video.
"If you add all those things together, I would say that is a huge investment," he said.
Rebuck's agency regulates the $3.3 billion casino industry and has been pushing for security improvements to make Atlantic City safer for tourists following a series of high-profile murders, including two fatal carjackings that originated at the Taj Mahal.
"These are upgrades we have been stressing throughout the city. I think a number of properties have made investments in security and surveillance," Rebuck said.
Three Camden men accused in the carjacking and killing of an Atlantic City visitor last September pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder, kidnapping and other charges. The carjacking victim was forced by gunpoint from the Taj Mahal parking garage and shot to death in an alley. His girlfriend was also shot, but survived.
Last week, a career criminal was sentenced to 120 years in prison and his ex-girlfriend received 30 years for another fatal carjacking that began at the Taj Mahal parking garage in May 2010. Family members of that victim, Martin Caballero, of Hudson County, have filed a lawsuit alleging that the Taj Mahal has failed to protect the public and did not warn customers of the casino's "long history of violent crime." The Taj Mahal declined to comment on the suit.
Although casino security measures usually are considered sensitive and not often made public, a top Trump executive briefly touched on the plans for the Taj Mahal during a presentation May 17 at the East Coast Gaming Congress.
Bob Griffin, chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., told the conference that the Taj Mahal expects to complete $5 million in security and surveillance upgrades by June 18.
Taj Mahal spokesman Brian Cahill did not respond to requests from The Press of Atlantic City for comment on the security improvements.
The Taj Mahal has installed signs in the parking garage, next to the elevators, that tell patrons "This area is under continuous video surveillance." There is also a security intercom next to the elevators that says "Push for help."
Rebuck said his agency has inspected all of the casino garages to see where safety could be improved. He noted that the upgrades at the Taj Mahal were "very much supported by our staff."
Rebuck stressed that the Division of Gaming Enforcement will continue to work with casinos for even more security improvements as part of the state's ongoing "clean and safe" initiative, which is designed to remove blight and tackle crime throughout Atlantic City.
"It's never going to end," Rebuck said of the safety efforts. "You have to always be current in anticipating the next problem. We're going to keep pushing. I think we've got to stay vigilant in what we do."
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