Police History

History of the South Brunswick Police Department

The Lenni Lenape (Delaware) peoples lived in the region and had mostly peaceful relations with European Colonists, who arrived after the explorers Verrazano, 1524 and Hudson, 1609.

From the Colonial era until well after the American Revolution, mainly citizens did police work. There were night watches to look out for fires and suspicious activities.
In 1668 each town was obliged to keep an “ordinary” or tavern for relief and entertainment of strangers under a penalty of 40 shillings for each month of neglect. Fines were inflicted for drunkenness, the fine being one shilling, two shillings, two shillings and a sixpence for the first three offenses with corporal punishment should the offender be unable to pay the fines. If unruly, he was put in stocks until he became sober. The fines not being excessive, did not cause the check of intemperance and in 1682 offenders were treated more rigorously, each offense incurred a fine of five shillings and if not paid, stocks received a tenant for six hours. Constables not performing their duties were fined ten shillings for each offense. Curfew laws were enforced, nightwalkers and revelers after nine o’clock were to be secured until morning, and unless excused, to be bound over to appear in court. The resistance to lawful authority, by word or action, or the expression of disrespectful language referring to those in office, was made punishable either by fine, corporal punishment, or previous to 1682, by banishment from the province. Liars were included as penal offenders; a second offense was punishable by a fine of twenty shillings, and if not paid, the culprit received corporal punishment or was put in the stocks.

On June 19, 1683 the 1st County Court of Middlesex was held in Piscataway There was but a single case tried at the town. Stocks and whipping posts were used for punishments of crimes. Criminal cases of theft were punished by fines double the value of the goods stolen. This method of dispensing justice was no doubt due to the fact that there were no jails for incarceration of prisoners.

On April 7, 1724 two constables were appointed to Middlesex County. The Courts Of Common Pleas for the county were first held in New Brunswick on George St. near Paterson where the soldiers of the revolution were quartered. This site was also known as “The Barracks”. It was to be used until a suitable building could be erected. Prior to this and as early as May 21, 1717 there was a courthouse and jail in Perth Amboy. In 1794 The Barracks were burned and the “Union” or Old City Hall was built and used as a courthouse until about 1840, when the present building was erected at a cost of approximately $30,000.00 with money obtained from the state.
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