The city has launched its “Safe City Initiative” to tackle street violence through a mix of rehabilitative services and police enforcement towards the 1-percent of population that’s responsible for 90-percent of violent crime in the Silk City, announced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration on Thursday afternoon.
The program will offer young people involved in street violence alternatives to incarceration giving them a last chance to turn their lives away from the street and towards becoming productive citizens.
“Today, we are changing our model of policing. We are identifying that 1% that is most likely to be killed, or kill someone. Any member of this group has the option of asking for help and they will receive help; however, if they continue the violence they will be arrested,” said police chief William Fraher.
The 1-percent were identified through a John Jay College of Criminal Justice study. Those individuals ripe for early intervention, rehabilitation, and direction will be provided assistance through Eva’s Village and the New Jersey Re-Entry Corporation’s Center of Hope.
The Center of Hope offers ex-offenders support programs like job training, record expungement, and housing assistance.
“Our program strives to offer positive alternatives that lower the potential for new criminal behaviors and recidivism,” said former New Jersey governor James McGreevey, who has made it his mission to provide offenders a chance restore their lives through re-entry.
Professor David M. Kennedy of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said by identifying and targeting those individuals and groups for enforcement and rehabilitation the city will be able to significantly reduce violent criminal activity.
“The issues of crime and its effect on a community are undoubtedly complex and multi-facetted. That suggests that any true solution must likewise incorporate a tiered approach that seeks to address the problem from a multiplicity of perspectives,” said police director Jerry Speziale.
Speziale and others held a call-in meeting on Wednesday to discuss the initiative being launched as the summer season rapidly approaches. Members of several street groups, police department, the National Network of Safe Communities, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, and professor Kennedy, and mayor Torres were on the conference call.
“As the Prosecutor of Passaic County I have seen firsthand the harm that this violence has done to so many families. The violence must stop now,” said Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes.
“We’re committed to this partnership, and we are meeting regularly; and our goal is to stop gun violence in this city. Let me make you a promise right now: If you are a member or an associate of a violent group, I promise you, you do not want your case to go federal,,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Justina Geraci.
Speziale the program doesn’t just mean providing support to the 1-percent to re-direct their lives, but also stronger enforcement against those who commit acts of violence.
“We are offering and challenging those living outside the law with a chance to make a change in their lives,” said Torres. “I am tired of visiting funeral homes and tired of the senseless feuds, with brothers killing brothers.”
A dedicated hotline — 973-569-5164 – has been setup for those ready for a change.
This report was last updated on April 29th, 2016 at 11 a.m.