After a nearly three-hour long emergency meeting prompted by a pair of weekend fatalities, mayor Andre Sayegh on Monday afternoon said police will continue to “devote special attention” to the city’s “most troubled sections.”
Sayegh administration officials and members of the City Council met at City Hall to discuss and formulate a plan to combat the upsurge in violence. The meeting was prompted by three violent incidents over the weekend.
43-year-old Petra Rhoden, a DoorDash driver making a delivery, was killed on Harrison Street on Friday night. Early Sunday morning, a 33-year-old woman was injured in a shooting on 6th Avenue. And on Sunday afternoon, a 13-year-old boy was found dead a block from where the deliverywoman was killed.
The boy was not identified. He was a student at the Martin Luther King, Jr. School, said a school board member on Monday night.
Police found the boy’s body at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday in the area behind 133 Harrison Street. The boy was already deceased when police arrived. The medical examiner was called to the scene and took custody of the body. An autopsy will be performed to determine manner and cause of death, said Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said on Monday.
“Two Patersonians lost their lives this past weekend, and I am extending my condolences to their families on this tragedy,” said Sayegh in a statement after the emergency meeting. “Our Police Department will continue to devote special attention and resources to some of the most troubled sections of our city, methodically working to investigate crimes, get guns off the streets, and arrest the perpetrators.”
Sayegh said police are committed to “getting to the bottom of these incidents.”
“It was a very productive meeting on all parts,” said police director Jerry Speziale after the meeting. “We have an effective plan. I can’t say anything further.”
Neither Speziale nor police chief Troy Oswald would publicly outline the plan.
“There is a plan,” said council president Maritza Davila, who called for the emergency meeting.
“You can’t storm the castle if you tell everybody when and where you are going to come and what tools you are going to use,” said councilman William McKoy. “We were assured and we’re confident they have a strategy and plan that’s effective in keeping our streets and residents safe.”
There were frustrations with police brass being unable to share certain information with the governing body.
“The chief was unable to go deep into police operations based on the attorney general’s guidelines. We’re hoping to pierce that veil by getting some of that information released,” said McKoy. The chief could not freely share police strategies and details about police operations, he said. “How can we truly govern if there’s restrictions?”
“Our hands are tied,” interjected Davila.
Both said the council will send a letter to the New Jersey Attorney General and the Passaic County Prosecutor. Previously, the council was unsuccessful in securing a direct meeting with the attorney general.
The meeting was attended by the mayor, his cabinet members, council members, police chief, and police captain Patrick Murray.
Councilman Michael Jackson, who is chairman of the public safety committee, left the meeting early. He told some people in the hallway the meeting was unlikely to produce any breakthrough to resolve the city’s crime problem.
“This place should be full,” said longtime resident Donald Lynch. He criticized the lack of early notice for the meeting.
Municipal officials issued the legally required public notice an hour before the meeting. The notice was also posted at City Hall. Lynch said he learned about the meeting through word of mouth.
“We’re supposed to feel good about this? No,” remarked Lynch speaking about the emergency meeting. “What we need in this city is leadership. We need strong leadership. That’s what we’re not getting.”
Former councilman Alex Mendez, who finished second in last year’s mayoral race, also criticized the mayor for lack of leadership. He reached out to a reporter before the emergency meeting.
“This administration has totally lost control of this city,” said Mendez, who is itching for a rematch with Sayegh in less than three years. He lives four blocks from the 6th Avenue shooting. “It’s unacceptable.”
Lynch pointed out there have been shootings just about every week.
“Where is our protection at? Where is it?” remarked Lynch. He criticized Sayegh for not doing enough to make sure residents are safe.
“Do something. Andre you are the leader of this city,” said Lynch directly looking at the mayor. “We’re looking to you to turn this around. This is what the people expect. Not to shake hand and cut ribbons.”