The Hoboken Police Department has also increased patrols in the area of city's projects, and Housing Authority officials have pledged to strictly enforce their "zero-tolerance" policy which would ban convicted criminals from living in the 1,373 federally subsidized units in the southwest part of town.
They also announced at a Housing Authority meeting on Thursday that they will be undertaking millions of dollars in improvements to Housing Authority's grounds and facilities.
A murder and drug bust
Last month, 18-year-old high school senior Ismar "Mookie" Mineros was shot and killed near the 500 Block of Jackson Street on the property of the Hoboken Housing Authority projects.
Antonio Rivera Jr., 19, of Harrison Street, is charged with shooting Mineros to death in the wee hours of Feb. 17. At the time of the shooting, Rivera had already been free on $75,000 bail after being charged with attempted murder for an August shooting in Jersey City.
Also, on March 6, the Hoboken Police Department and the Hudson County Prosecutor's office made eight arrests to break up a major heroin ring that was operating out of Hoboken.
Considering a curfew
At Wednesday night's City Council meeting, Council President Christopher Campos, who also sits on the Board of Commissioners at the Hoboken Housing Authority, instructed the city's attorney to write a curfew ordinance that could be introduced at the council's next meeting on April 5. Before any such legislation can be passed, there will have to be a public hearing where residents can debate the issue.
After an uptick in gang activity two years ago, the idea of a curfew was debated, but at that time there was a perception of minimal support for it to pass.
But now, Campos said the conditions are different.
"We have had parents come to us this time asking for a curfew," Campos said. "The safety of our residents is a serious issue and we - as a government- are dealing with the escalation of violence that took the life of one of our residents."
Is a curfew legal?
The concept of a curfew is not a new one in Hudson County. Union City, West New York and Jersey City currently have one in place. Minors, unless working, are to be home from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Those curfews have been challenged in court, but they have been upheld.
Zero tolerance policy evicts entire families
Campos also said that Housing Authority officials will show increased vigilance in enforcing the "zero-tolerance" policy. The Department of Housing and Urban Development currently has a policy of evicting tenants and their families who commit violent or drug-related crimes.
Campos said that the housing board has authorized the director and the HHA attorneys to go after tenants violating the policy.
"Our tenants have been warned," Campos said. "If they or their children are involved in violent acts or drugs, their entire family will be evicted. There will be no exceptions."
Keycard system, video cameras for buildings
According to Housing Authority Acting Executive Director Robert DiVincent, the authority is also undertaking a major capital improvement initiative that is aimed at increasing security.
This Wednesday, he expects to receive bids to completely renovate the entranceways and hallways of all of the HHA's buildings.
"This is the largest project that we are going to do," DiVincent said. He said that the contract, which will likely be well in excess of $1 million, will include increased lighting, a new electronic keycard entry system for all of the buildings, a new intercom system, improved lighting and repairs to the stairs, and new fire doors. They will also paint the hallways and apartment doors, DiVincent said.
"We are going to do what we can to ensure that people that don't have the right to be in these buildings can't get in," DiVincent said. "We have spent a lot of money and effort to not only make these apartments more livable, but also to make them secure."
The authority has also already entered into a contract to buy about 25 video cameras in the HHA's public areas for about $100,000. According to HHA officials, about 14 of those cameras have already been installed, and the others will be installed shortly. The cameras feed directly to the Hoboken Police Department.
The Housing Authority also pays $45,000 per month for supplemental police protection. According to city officials, since last month's murder, the Police Department has made several adjustments to its deployment in the Housing Authority, with a specific emphasis on officers making vertical checks of the projects' buildings.