By David Cruz
The message from Acting Attorney General John Hoffman today was defiant — “If you want to continue to wage war on the streets of Trenton, we will come at you with everything that we have got,” he said.
Surrounded by state and local police as well as community and clergy members, Hoffman announced the results of a 40-day crackdown targeting the capital city’s toughest streets and its most hardened criminals.
“Since these initiatives began on Aug. 15, we have made 549 arrests, seized 20 guns, identified 18 gun-toting defendants as TAG eligible, meaning that those defendants will be prosecuted under strict guidelines,” he said. “No cheap plea deals.”
Hoffman said the state’s TAG or Targeted Anti-Gun Initiative and TIDE, Targeted Integrated Deployment Effort, which brought state troopers onto the city’s streets, will continue indefinitely. He also announced $1 million over three years to a program called the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy, which will target gang members with social services and educational opportunities as an alternative to the thug life.
“Would-be offenders are presented with two crystal clear options,” said Hoffman. “Aggressive law enforcement and stern prosecution on one hand, and opportunity on the other.”
Trenton residents, still reeling from their long, hot summer, were unimpressed with the attorney general’s stats or this latest initiative.
“I’m pretty afraid to go outside. I got robbed a couple of months back,” said resident Eric Konchar, adding that the presence of state police hadn’t made him feel any safer.
“It’s really bad,” said Jimmy Youngblood, a lifelong city resident. “Still could be worse but it’s really bad. We are at such a low. I would never say that it couldn’t get any worse, but I don’t foresee it getting any worse than it is now.”
And then there’s the elephant in the room, or in this case, not in the room — Mayor Tony Mack, whose legal troubles have threatened to ground city operations to a halt and made him a pariah with state officials.
“I do not see the mayor,” said Hoffman when asked if the mayor had been invited to the press conference. “I see the city administrator here. The city was invited and they sent a representative, who’s right behind me.”
“I’ve said it before,” said Trenton Business Administrator Samuel Hutchinson. “The issues involving the mayor are specific, individual issues. The issues with respect to law enforcement and with respect to the crime, particularly violent crime reduction initiatives, are initiatives that go beyond any one individual.”
The mayor wasn’t available to talk with us today. A source told us he was specifically not invited to today’s event. He’s not part of the solution said the source; he’s part of the problem.