Residents from the Hillcrest section of Paterson came together in School 27 on Wednesday evening for a neighborhood association meeting that would encourage residents to form block associations to preserve the integrity of their streets by keeping criminals out.
“Crime is growing in the 2nd Ward,” said Maureen Promin, president of the Hillcrest Neighborhood Association, a loose conglomeration of neighbors with an aim to preserve the tranquility of their sleepy neighborhoods in one of the peaceful section of the city. Promin said, residents need to take charge before crime exacerbates in the area; she was not alone in calling for residents to protect their own neighborhoods, Dalton Price, a police sergeant with Paterson Police Department, urged residents to “look out for each other.”
Herminio Sanchez, a correction officer, who moved to the city from Jersey City, said, his neighborhood is slowly degenerating. “Right along that sidewalk there was,” said Sanchez, “about two weeks ago they were coming every other night, and they’d park there smoking weed.” Sanchez sees telltale signs of the neighborhood slowly falling apart; the area of the avenue where many of these weed smokers and drug dealers were hanging out was in front of a home on Rossiter Avenue, where a neighbor of his has been neglecting his lawn for some time allowing hedges to grow out of control. Neglected properties often invite mischief-makers into neighborhoods.
“People are being accosted in middle of the day time,” said Rita Gernant, vice president of the association. She shared an incident that happened in the corner of Sherwood and Chamberlain Avenues, where an elderly man was mugged in broad day light. Gernant said, the association so far has 30 active members, and is seeking to include more individuals in the area.
“This used to be one of the best neighborhoods in the city,” said Carlos Lugo, one of the original founder of the association. “We have to fight to go back to that time.” Lugo said, he and others in the area started the association after seeing drug dealers – unheard of in that section of the city – peddling their narcotics in plain sight. Lugo is thinking about installing eight cameras in his neighborhood that would add extra eyes on his street; Sanchez has already installed four cameras on his premises, and he said it has deterred the weed smokers and drug dealers.
Along with Price, two other police officers: Krystle Diaz and Francisco Munoz, both from the city’s community policing unit, attended the event in a show of support. Many in the gathering complained that whenever police were called they seldom responded. Price said, they do respond to every call, but sometimes priorities are different: a shooting requires a faster response than a strange vehicle blocking a driveway.
“I don’t want to say we’re lucky,” said Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, who lives in that section of the city, “in certain areas they’re talking about hearing gunfire on a daily basis.” Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman; Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large; and former councilman Aslon Goow attended the event. “We have to depend on each other to police our neighborhood,” said Morris, who lives in the area.
After providing a basic outline and best practices of starting and maintaining a block association, Price said, “You don’t want to be a prisoner in your own home.”