By David Cruz
Police Director Jerry Speziale says it’s been a mostly positive year in crime prevention in the city of Paterson, but he acknowledged that the end of the year has seen an uptick in violence, including three fatal shootings in two incidents over the weekend. To the extent that the homicides took place during holiday celebrations, police say they are hitting the streets with increased manpower starting tonight.
“Yeah, there’s been a recent uptick in violence and our statistics in homicide if you look at it, we’re at a 30 percent reduction,” he noted. “We also have a reduction of around 12 percent in non-fatal shootings. There’s a reduction in robberies. Overall crime there’s a reduction. However, we will never be satisfied with the fact that it’s not at zero.”
Operation Swift Justice, a multi-agency effort to target the city’s crime hotspots, will begin with the holiday season and will continue into the new year, employing human resources – about 100 extra cops over this weekend – and technology.
“We’ve seen a little surge over the weekend, so we want to assure the residents that we will continue to fight crime very aggressively with our counterparts between the county and state government,” said Mayor Jose Torres.
Police say you can’t arrest your way out of a crime problem, but residents say they’re ok with an increase in arrests if it comes with a corresponding increase in police presence.
“It’s about time,” said Justine Rucker, who said he recently lost a close friend to gun violence. “We need the police presence. We need something. Some kind of effort from our administration here to stop this. This is crazy.”
Outside city hall Paterson resident Jose Nunez said he welcomes the city’s initiative.
“I hope so,” he said about the promised surge in police deployment. “More cops around means crime is less. We’ll be secure all around. Sometimes it’s hard to walk around Paterson in some places around here.”
“We’re doing everything, what I call an investment in human capital,” said Torres, “so it’s job training, housing, a holistic approach to provide a better quality of life here in the city of Paterson.”
It starts tonight with the hope that the recent violence here closes the book on 2015, rather than foreshadowing the climate for 2016.