A joint fight against crime
Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson to form task force to confront urban challenges
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Aug 03, 2014 | 2173 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A COMBINED EFFORT – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and Paterson Mayor Jose Torres appeared in Jersey City to announce a cooperative agreement against crime.
A COMBINED EFFORT – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and Paterson Mayor Jose Torres appeared in Jersey City to announce a cooperative agreement against crime.
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Less than 72 hours after Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and Paterson Mayor Jose Torres met to announce the launch of a strategic partnership to help deal with violent crime, a Newark cop was shot.

Although not a targeted shooting, as was the recent killing of Jersey City officer Melvin Santiago, the incident highlighted the need in three of New Jersey’s largest cities for new strategies to respond to violent crime.

Murders are spiking in all three cities, even though other categories of crime are in decline.

The three towns share a lot of similar problems, and often must keep track of the same individuals, who may travel from one of the three largest cities in the state to the other to commit crimes.
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Murders are spiking in all three cities, even though other categories of crime are in decline.
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At a press conference held at the shopping center on MLK Drive in Jersey City on July 28, elected officials, along with their respective public safety representatives, outlined a new plan that would help increase resources to each of the three communities.

“We know we must take a comprehensive approach to public safety and other important issues affecting our cities, and to do so we must work together with the other large New Jersey municipalities to foster cooperation and information-sharing,” Fulop said.

The ways the cities could cooperate include sharing information, tracking criminals who may travel from city to city, trading gang intelligence and offering communal police manpower and task forces, and working together on programs such as Cease Fire and department efforts for minority recruiting.

Fulop said he has a good working relationship with the state Attorney General’s office and other higher level law enforcement agencies. But he said the three-city effort would expand the ability of municipal police to track suspects and would magnify the manpower and other resources available to each city.

“Some people from Newark do horrible things in Newark and then come into Jersey City,” Fulop said.

Each of the cities already have set up Cease Fire Units designed to respond to reports of violence, and to take steps to not only investigate, but also to prevent violence from spreading. Gang violence often resembles old style feuds and tends to escalate.

Torres said the Paterson unit has reduced the number of unsolved cases dramatically since its inception.

Baraka said the cities would also share best practices, and implement successful strategies the other cities may have developed.

More than just about crime

Fulop, however, said the partnership between the three cities would likely expand beyond public safety, as the cities use their collective purchasing power to reduce costs for basic commodities. This could include areas of concern such as providing resources for prisoner reentry or summer jobs for youth.

“We see a strong potential for significant cost savings for our cities by combining and leveraging our purchasing power for large items such as salt and parks and public works equipment,” Fulop said. “Not only will we see a reduced cost of goods, we will have greater access to supply as a large purchaser, as in the case of salt in winter.”

All three cities have a significant mortgage foreclosure problem. Like the Hudson County Board of Freeholders, which has leveraged the deposits of county funds to persuade banks to offer better services, Fulop said he would like to urge banks to invest in poorer areas of the city, and open branches that would serve poorer neighborhoods.

“Issues that affect Jersey City also affect Newark and Paterson, and we have a unique opportunity to collaborate on solutions through this new partnership,” Fulop said. “We recognize the challenges mayors face, and by working together on solutions we will have the greatest impact.”

He said the three mayors have discussed organizing a possible urban roundtable at Rutgers University in Newark in September to discuss some of the common crime problems their cities face.

“Public safety is a top priority of my administration and we cannot address it solely as a Newark issue,” Baraka said. “We must work as a team to address crime at its roots.”

Torres agreed.

“This is a beginning to a positive change,” Torres said. “Our cities have lost many valuable and innocent lives.”

Wait and see

While the politicians offered their ideas, many people from the neighborhoods most afflicted by violent crime sat and listened, and some expressed doubt about what they heard. Tensions have been heightened between Jersey City police and the African American community due to several police shootings of black men since the beginning of the year. In that context, many of the residents on hand said they would wait and see.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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