LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Group Proposes Plan to Combat Gun Violence in Plainfield

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

“People get shot every day. This is normal. It just be useless,” said Plainfield resident John Calhoun.

In his neighborhood, burning candles cluster in a makeshift shrine to Plainfield’s latest murder victim who was shot on West 4th Street this month. Yellow police tape still dangles from a fence down the block — the scene of another homicide earlier this year. Calhoun says, Plainfield’s changed.

“Like, from the gangs. Now there’s gangs in Plainfield. That changed it a lot,” he said.

Plainfield’s a small city — just 50,000 people. It logged four homicides in 2014, only three last year. But this year the homicide rate more than tripled to ten, half of them within a mile of each other. Who’s doing the shooting? We asked a resident who feared to show her face.

“I’m just saying, in general, s*** out here. Plainfield only just so big. Heck, you got family killing family,” said Anonymous.

“They’re in the street and they’ve got to a point where they can’t even play in front of their houses,” said Bread of Life Ministry Pastor Wendell Wheeler.

Wheeler joined with an anti-violence coalition today that prepared a five-point proposed plan of action.

“It’s not just about government, it’s not just about police, it’s about community collaborating together to try to curb this continuing plague of gun violence in the city,” said Salamm Ismial, director of National United Youth Council.

The group presented their plan to the city, stressing weekly community meetings, an anti-gun campaign, street corner outreach teams and services for at-risk youth and families. We weren’t allowed in.

“You can come, but no cameras allowed in here,” said a guard.

Earlier, the city public administrator and public safety director declined to go on-camera. But they did say they’re meeting with residents and working to address the crisis.

“My heart goes out to the families,” said Mayor Adrian Mapp.

At a recent town hall meeting, Mapp tried to calm residents.

He said, “Plainfield is a very safe city. These incidents are incidents that have occurred as a result of guns, drugs and gangs. People that are intent on destroying each other, they will do that.”

The Union County Prosecutor’s office is working to solve the homicides, noting “…one common thread that ties many of them together is a lack of cooperation and information coming from potential witnesses in the community.”

The no-snitch code of the street remains strong here.

“They lean towards the streets. Ain’t got nowhere else to go,” said Calhoun.

The city said it will examine the coalition’s proposal and schedule a meeting.