By David Cruz
Together, they represent over 700,000 residents. And their cities also lead the state in most violent crime categories. Today, the mayors of New Jersey’s three largest cities announced that they are joining forces to combat their biggest common problem — violent crime.
“The recent death of Genesis Rincon in Paterson and Officer Melvin Santiago in Jersey City broke our hearts but must never break our spirits,” said Paterson Mayor Jose Torres. “We owe it to our communities to act. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Forged in the aftermath of recent tragedies in their cities, the mayors say that the ultimate idea for the initiative comes from the frequency with which they are already informally sharing.
“The genesis of this was recognition by all three of us that we share similar challenges on the crime front and that there have been instances where the Paterson police have made significant arrests of people for significant crimes by people that the Jersey City police were looking for,” noted Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, “and there are significant examples of people making bad decisions in Jersey City and then going over the Witt Penn Bridge or the Pulaski Skyway and then going into Newark.”
In addition to actual crime fighters — that is, a special task force of cops on the cities’ streets — the three municipalities will share intelligence, create programs aimed at stemming foreclosures and create more job, education and recreation opportunities. For Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, getting at those root problems is a critical piece of the plan.
“Somebody gets robbed, somebody gets carjacked, somebody gets shot. It’s the thing that most residents in these cities feel the most,” added Baraka, “but that is only the result of other things — unemployment, poverty, mental illness, other kinds of issues, gun trafficking, proliferation of gangs.”
The mayors’ press conference was held on Martin Luther King Drive, near the shopping center that serves as a community gathering space by day and the epicenter of crime after dark. Many residents here say seeing the mayors together gave them some hope but admitted that it’s a race against time.
Nancy Washington, a mother of three, said a generation of young people is on the verge of being lost. “We’re losing them by the minute, by the second, by the hour,” she said. “Yes, we are.”
Catch up on the entire “Crime In Our Cities” series