By State Senator Ronald L. Rice Newark needs to be declared a state of “Crime Emergency.” The daily killing of innocent people in the city of Newark, and the violent crimes, rapes, robberies and carjackings have grown beyond the point of being ridiculous. Most recently, 10 people were killed in a span of four days and another ten people killed in August and September within ten days.
The sad fact of the matter is there has been no one is in charge of Newark for quite some time. Cory Booker has been a no-show Mayor parading around the country getting wealthy while innocent victims are gunned down in his city daily.
Residents of the city of Newark – particularly African Americans – must stop complaining to each other one on one and in our little circles of comfort among friends and family; and instead come together and collectively to express outrage and take a public stance against the violence being perpetrated on our streets. We need to make it clear to our sons and daughters that regardless of the difficult times we are facing we will not tolerate the senseless crimes being committed in our city.
Elected officials at all levels of government are charged with and have a legal and moral obligation to provide the financial and human resources to write and enforce the laws that make our community safe and to provide for a better quality of life for all of our residents and economic and social stability for our businesses.
Those of us who are not taking this responsibility seriously must be called out and held accountable for our failure to provide the kind of hands-on leadership that is a part of meeting our obligation as elected and appointed officials.
The reality is that, as individuals, none of us have all of the answers necessary to seriously abate this problem overnight. If we want to honestly and effectively address the ongoing violence happening in our community, we have to bring everyone to the table.
African-American elected officials at the federal, state, and county levels of government
who represent the city of Newark have heard from our constituents, and can bring information, perspective and common sense to bear to build a strong foundation for any comprehensive crime reduction plan. We must be allowed to participate in the meetings and conversations being held by other government officials and agencies to address the homicide and violent crime issues in the city.
Without the input of African-American elected officials and other leaders’ cultural experience, knowledge of our communities and sincere commitment to effective resolution any plan produced runs the risk of failure, regardless of the well-meaning intentions of those producing the plan.
Community-based organizations such as the Anti-Violence Coalition, Street Warriors, Enough is Enough, Women in Support of the Million Man March, Black Cops Against Police Brutality, People’s Organization for Progress, Newark NAACP, New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, the Newark North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen and other such clergy organizations must also be included in the meetings and discussions as part of a real cohesive partnership with our government officials, if we are truly committed to winning this crime war .
These are the grass-roots African-American organizations that have been and are on the
streets day and night trying to stop the violence and protect people’s human and civil rights. Their leaders and members know the people, the perpetrators, victims and families.
Most importantly of all, they know our city and many of the variables that contribute to rising crime statistics.
The members of these organizations are not only our street warriors, they are our street intelligence and civil rights leaders. Some members are folks who’ve made mistakes in the past and have turned their lives around, some have been victimized by violence, and others meet regularly with family members to offer prayer and bury the victims.
What is clear to Newark residents is the fact that addressing the killings and violent crime that plagues the city is not going to have any reasonable or valid outcomes if elected officials and others see the problem only through the lens of the criminal justice system. We can put folks behind bars, but unless we address the long-established socio-economic contributing factors that lead too many people to think that a life of crime is their only option, someone else will just take their place.
The real issues that state government leaders and some local mayors continue to run from are issues of poverty, healthcare, education, employment, recreation, and yes, corruption and mismanagement of taxpayers’ dollars by government officials in charge of providing a better quality of life for our residents.
Contrary to what the Governor tells the country, he has not kept his commitment to enhance education in the urban communities. Instead he cut direct aid to public schools by $1.1 billion which caused an increase in local property taxes and over-crowed class rooms. The Legislature is to be blamed as well for not holding hearings and passing legislation that can assist in the reduction of violent crime by providing some funding for after-school programs for our youth.
If we’re going to be successful in combating the rising tide of crime in our cities, we must develop a comprehensive action plan involving all stakeholders that addresses urban reality, and accounts for the root cause of crime, and not just the symptoms. We cannot govern with our heads in the sand on these issues, and need to address the problem head on. Only then will we be able to reclaim Newark and other cities besieged by violent crime.
Senator Ronald L. Rice represents the 28th Legislative District, which includes Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Newark and Nutley. He currently serves as Chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus.