TRENTON - Violent criminals beware: New Jersey’s urban mayoral alliance against crime just got a little bigger.
According to Mayor Eric Jackson, Trenton may soon be joining the ranks of three other cities whose leaders pledged today to work towards lowering violent crime rates in their respective jurisdictions. As of several hours ago, that team consisted of Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
But it will likely also include Jackson -- whose own city tops all four for highest violent crime rate -- and his administration in the coming weeks. Jackson told PolitickerNJ that he has been in talks with Fulop about signing on to the partnership, which aims to curb crime rates by pooling resources and encouraging work between and among the cities’ police departments.
“I have not corresponded yet with what I would call their core committee, but I certainly had that conversation with Mayor Fulop,” Jackson said following his first town hall event tonight. “We already had one meeting where we talked about how we’re all struggling with the same problems, violent crime, and how we could benefit from working together on the issue.”
Trenton would be a fitting candidate for the alliance, given its ongoing history with violent crime. It’s surging homicide rate is on track to meet last year’s record-high of 37 -- a number that tops not just Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson this year, but also Camden, long considered the state’s most violent city.
According to recent statistics, there were, per 100,000 residents between January 1 and July 14: 111.3 shootings in Trenton, 80.3 in Camden, 45.4 in Newark, 42.7 in Paterson, and 16.9 in Jersey City.
According to Fulop, who announced the alliance alongside Torres and Baraka at an event in Jersey City today, the numbers call for “a comprehensive approach to public safety and other important issues affecting our cities.” But the news also comes amidst Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign on the national scene as head of the Republican Governor’s Association -- a dichotomy that has some questioning the latter’s priorities.
Faced with a new wave of violent crime, Torres said the mayors of the state’s largest cities are “not going to wait for the Statehouse to do something. Doing nothing is not an option.”
For his part, Jackson -- who noted having a “good working relationship” with Fulop and Baraka, and a developing relationship with Torres -- said he’s had a number of fruitful meetings with the governor’s administration.
“We’ve had a series of good meetings -- I would say excellent meetings -- starting with the Governor, through the Lt. Governor, and down through the senior leadership. It’s been excellent and exciting and the most important thing is that it’s about us moving the city forward, and we’re all on the same page to work together for the benefit of the capital city.”
But for Jackson, tackling the city’s violent crime rate is only one step in a broader mission to move Trenton, which has suffered some serious setbacks in recent months, forward. Among his other priorities are improving the city’s education system, which boasts one of the lowest graduation rates in the state, and attracting local business to spur economic development.
“This is one of the primary things that I said we had to do and it links into the issues which our cities share, which is crime, and specifically violent crime,” Jackson said. “We have to get a reduction in violent crime and at the same time basic quality of life. We have to conversations about the achievement gap that would lead to a better education system and better outcomes for our children. Paramount to that is we have to bring in jobs, and job opportunities and internships into the city, and create economic development where there’s attachments to hiring for local residents. I think those three items along with our strengths, which are arts and culture, will help us to move the city forward. We have to make sure we’re focused on those core areas."
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