City spokesperson Stan Eason said there aren't many details about the 6:30 p.m. meeting available yet, except to say there would be discussions on patrols, a new website for the Police Department, and a new department slogan. The meeting will also include a Powerpoint presentation by Police Chief Robert Troy.
Residents have asked the police to increase patrols in the neighborhoods and to respond faster to complaints, but police officials say they are limited by a shortage of officers.
While there is a development boom and property taxes are increasing, Jersey City still suffered a record 39 homicides last year and an increase in robberies and rapes in the first two months of 2006.
"I was asking myself this question," said resident Dwayne Baskerville, who works with local teens, last week. "How do we make sure these kids are not getting killed today?"
Meanwhile, residents are bolstering their Neighborhood Watch programs and seeking help from the Guardian Angels organization, a group of volunteer crime fighters based in New York who are currently looking for a Jersey City office.The Guardian Angels
The Guardian Angels, in conjunction with some downtown Jersey City neighborhood associations, held a public meeting at Middle School No. 4 on Friday, March 17.
Speaking at the meeting were local members of the Guardian Angels and city officials such as City Council President Mariano Vega and Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop. The meeting was attended by nearly 100 people.
Among the topics of the meeting were not only how the Guardian Angels would operate in Jersey City but also how residents could become more proactive in watching over their neighborhoods.
Dale Hardman emceed the meeting. Hardman has been a downtown Jersey City resident since 1982 and has worked with fellow downtown resident Pam Andes and others.
"I and Pam both work on the Jersey City Neighborhood Watch monthly patrol, where we travel through various areas in Downtown looking for suspicious activity," said Hardman. "The Neighborhood Watch also has a meeting once a month where we report the suspicious activity to our precinct captain, [Brian] McDonough, and he gives us information on incidents happening in his precinct the previous month."
Hardman said preventing crime could be as simple as saying hello to new neighbors.
"Some of the new residents moving into Jersey City that I meet remind me of myself when I moved here over 20 years ago," he said. "There's this mindset that 'We'll only be here a few years and then we'll move out, so we won't be involved.' "
Hardman added, "As a struggling artist, I had very little influence upon my elected officials. The new residents, many of whom work in the finance industry and make a substantial income, feel they are paying a lot of money for their [homes] and demand city officials have to be accountable. While that's a good thing, there's also this sense of entitlement that will not work in an urban area - everyone needs to work together." Seizing cars where guns are found
State Assemblyman and Jersey City resident Louis Manzo (D-31st Dist.), who represents Bayonne and part of Jersey City, said recently that there are bills in the State Assembly confronting gang-related crime. If the Assembly approves the bills, the following policies would be set:
Anti-gang penalties - Replicating a similar program in Camden, law enforcement agencies would share information about gang activity. Gang-related crime would be treated as organized crime, allowing local prosecutors to impose harsher penalties. A 15-year jail sentence would be imposed on gang leaders who aggressively recruit new members.
Manzo is currently working with the New Jersey Department of Corrections to implement its Project Pride, which would bring police officers and former gang members into schools to talk about the ills of gang life.
Records of who buys ammunition - People purchasing ammunition in New Jersey would have to show current firearm identification, and gun shops would keep a record of who purchased ammunition. Currently, the state only keeps records on the purchase of weapons, not ammunition. Another law would allow police to seize vehicles in which a gun was found.
Rehabilitation - The New Jersey Department of Corrections would allow underage offenders to stay out of prison if they agree to enter into a program to earn a high school equivalency diploma and apprentice at a New Jersey company to learn real-life skills.
Manzo said last week that he is optimistic these bills will be passed in the Legislature before summer break, which starts July 1.
"Governor [Jon] Corzine in his new budget set aside money for funding the anti-gang proposal and other initiatives in the bill," said Manzo, referring to the $30.9 billion state budget Corzine introduced on Tuesday. Protecting youth
Dwayne Baskerville, a Bergen-Lafayette resident, was a candidate in the 2004 special mayoral election in which Mayor Jerramiah Healy won an interim term before being elected to a four-year term in May 2005. Baskerville was known as the man who "needed an answer from God" before he made a decision to run for office.
After his electoral run, Baskerville came across young people at risk of gang recruitment and fearful of teen violence. That led to him form the Teen Summits with the help of Ward E City Councilwoman Viola Richardson and other community leaders, where the city's youth express themselves in a public forum about the problems they are facing.
"A lot of our young people are targets for adults who are exploiting them, and they see any action by adults trying to help them as an assault on them," said Baskerville. "I wanted to help them."
At first, very few young people attended the summits. Then he reached out to Jersey City Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Epps.
"I spoke to Dr. Epps about holding these summits in the public schools," said Baskerville. "I thought that instead of the kids going out of their way, the summit would come to them."
Epps agreed to the idea and since early 2005, several Teen Summits have taken place. The most recent one was held Thursday morning at Snyder High School on Bergen Avenue where over 150 students attended.
Baskerville said there would be one more summit in April at Dickinson High School, followed by a meeting tentatively scheduled for May at one of the local colleges, where city officials would address students' comments and devise solutions to help them. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com