NEWARK – At an urban mayors roundtable on public safety at Rutgers-Newark on Wednesday, the mayors of the state’s three largest cities – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres- who recently announced a three-city partnership to fight crime, sat side by side, asking questions and seeking solutions.
Baraka talked about the “circular” nature of recidivism in urban areas.
“Research has shown that the overwhelming amount of people who are getting arrested are going to come home. At some point, we’re going to see them again,” said Baraka, who joined with Fulop and Torres in July to announce an urban mayoral alliance to fight crime. “How do we break this circle?”
“I don’t know,” said David M. Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, who spoke earlier during the roundtable event on crime prevention efforts in other American cities such as Chicago, New Orleans and Oakland. “One of the reasons [former criminals commit crimes again] is because we have been arresting everybody. We are damaging the social fabric in a lot of different ways, and we are interfering with the community’s willingness to go to the police for help.”
“We all know the problem, and we see that it’s so vast,” Torres said. “We have to recognize the cost of incarceration versus education or re-entry. This is probably the first time in the history of the state of New Jersey that the academic society is joining with legislators, law enforcement and elective officials to attempt to come up with a solution.”
Fulop talked about “actionable steps” that all of New Jersey’s urban mayors can take in order to make residents feel that they can help play an important role in creating best police practices.
“I’d like to hear a little bit more about different community review boards. It’s something we’ve enacted in Jersey City for the first time,” Fulop said. “Having some sort of community involvement on the policing side is helpful.”
The question of introducing community review board is currently being addressed in both Newark and Paterson.
“We’re shooting for January. We’re getting ready to start calling meetings of respective stakeholders together very soon to talk about what it should look like,” said Baraka, referring to an additional police reform component he hopes will dovetail with a consent agreement between federal authorities and the city police department. The agreement, expected to be finalized this month, will install a federal monitor to oversee Newark’s police force. It will be implemented after a joint three-year investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division revealed significant civil rights violations by the Newark Police Department. “We’re going to go forward to create a review board in our city.”
“Having some type of oversight from the community’s perspective is very helpful,” Torres said. “How we’re going to craft it, including addressing some constitutional and confidentially issues, is something we’re working on with our law department.”