Tag Archive: crime

Beginning tonight – Ras Baraka calling Newark men to Occupy the Block

This week, Mayor Ras Baraka is calling on the men of his city of Newark to hold court with him on specific streets; he’s calling it Occupy the Block.

The first Occupy the Block just started at 4:30pm at Clinton Ave and Chadwick today. Saturday at the same time, it will be Chancellor and Schley. Baraka plans to do this three days a week, staying for several hours. He’s thinking folding chairs and tables, shutting down any nearby illegal trade, talking frankly with whoever’s there about the city, about youth, about violence. Maybe play some chess. (Read his whole message here).

Have to say, I was vexed when I heard he was looking only to men. I know women in Newark who keep sharp eyes out on their street every day, grandmothers you wouldn’t want to mess with, and women teachers whose lifework is the lives of kids. But then I remembered something from a long time ago, from my block in the upper west side in NYC.  

For Sen. Shirley Turner to consider: ACLU guidelines for effective use of police body cameras

In the post-Ferguson world, legislatures are looking at ways to increase public trust in the police, increase the transparency and accountability of police conduct, and more accurately document police-public encounters, protecting the public against police misconduct, and helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.

And, to be frank, to clearly record and hopefully prevent  incidents like the one in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed teenager is shot and killed by police and differing accounts emerge. The thinking, by advocates, and by the makers of cameras already installed on many police dashboards across the country, is to get the story straight.

Senator Shirley Turner plas to propose legislation requiring police officers statewide to be equipped with body cameras. I think that’s an idea worth considering and I hope to see support from both Democrats and Republicans for this good government idea.

That said, I want to call to Sen. Turner’s attention, if she’s not already aware, that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has worked up some guidelines for how that should be done that I think are worth her considering. And that is particularly because they come from ACLU, which has a history of opposing undue government surveillance. That as a baseline, their support of police body-cams, make their policy suggestions valuable. These include guidelines for protecting the pubic against unreasonable invasion of privacy, preventing evidence from being edited to misguide how recordings should be used, and how long retained.

Here, in greater detail than I should summarize, are ACLU’s policy proposals for effective use of police body cams. I’ll be sending this to Sen. Turner’s office. I hope police chiefs and local municipal officials also give it a read.  

The Great Willingboro IPad Heist: Nobody Knows Nuthin’

To paraphrase The Bard (badly), there is something rotten in the town of Willingboro.

During the past two days, several South Jersey publications have disclosed a rather disturbing story out of that small Burlington County town of about 33,000. Over the past year, administrators of the local school district have reported (at least) 171 iPads missing – or to be more specific – stolen.

The information was actually revealed late last month due to an Open Public Records Act request taken on the part of the Burlington County Times.

One report claims that the iPads were stolen in bulk in 2013 from the District’s warehouse. I’m not exactly familiar with its facilities, but this already stinks of some kind of inside job. The idea of some dingbat thief breaking into a warehouse usually reserved for pens, pencils and dry erase boards to hit this kind of jackpot – and get away clean – isn’t exactly believable. And what’s really irritating is that school and police investigators can’t seem to find who’s responsible.

This kind of situation can best be summed up in a two-word term in constant use by my tween son’s generation: Epic Fail.

The educational value of a networked iPad in the hands of a child cannot be underestimated. It’s a book, a note-taking device, an interface that illuminates in spectacular fashion the great works of art and architecture. It’s a global atlas containing every mountain range, country and territory down to the street level. It’s a teleconferencing device enabling a student to talk to peers from the largest urban center in Asia to the smallest African village. It’s a documentary machine, a recording studio, a radio, and on and on and on. And 171 of these magnificent learning tools were whisked away from the Willingboro’s school district warehouse, and nobody knows nothing.


Christie’s Summer of Failure – And Ours

Promoted by Rosi, who is not as convinced as the writer or the first commenter, of the eventual outcome.

As the dog days of Summer set in (actually, it’s pretty cool out today, now that I think about it), the nearly unbelievable extent of the failures of our strong-willed governor have clearly emerged. Here is a man who was elected to one of the most powerful governorships in the nation, yet, after a full term and then some, he’s achieved nothing.

In infrastructure, he failed us. He vetoed the construction of a long-overdue Trans-Hudson link in his first term. Now he’s illegally shuffling around millions to fund repairs on the Pulaski Highway. Public transit fares remain astronomical, especially for those commuting into New York City. I’d say that all of this is due to his “small government” philosophy, but that’s really the philosophy of the Republican Party. Christie has no philosophy, no guiding set of ideas, no overall goals, at least none that do not relate to his national political career. He does like to yell at people who ask him tough questions  

Saving New Jersey’s children three zip codes at a time

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield blog. – Promoted by Rosi.

Yesterday the mayors of New Jersey’s three largest cities, Ras Baraka of Newark, Jose Torres of Paterson and Steven Fulop of Jersey City, announced a bold move to collaborate on reducing violent crime in all three cities.

The proposal evolved from the Passaic River Corridor Initiative along Route 21, which has involved as many as 80 municipalities sharing police intelligence, according to Tom O’Reilly, the head of the Police Institute at Rutgers University. State authorities have said the program has led to hundreds of arrests.

But sharing police officers among three large cities that are not adjacent to one another while also combining social services is “sort of a first,” O’Reilly said. “They are challenging the traditional ways of thinking,” he said of the mayors. “The idea that three mayors have cut across bureaucratic lines is the first step.”

How Can Jersey’s Urban Citizens Organize if They Have No Place to Meet?

As the online articles of summertime shootings in New Jersey’s neglected, jobless and isolated inner cities begin to ramp up, so do the ignorant, hostile comments that adjoin them. To many Internet readers, these forums are either wholly ignored or regarded as more or less useless – being the sum total of random ranters with too much time on their hands. But even from a non-scientific point of view, they do matter, because in some form, they represent documented, and occasionally comprehensive reactions and discussions from concerned Garden State citizens of all kinds.

One kind of comment, however, seems to be more common than all the others. For within the collections of comments that state things like “a tragedy for a girl who had her whole life ahead of her,” and “minorities continue to ruin places where we used to leave the doors unlocked,” there is one that is worth genuine analysis. It varies, but usually states something like “This violence will continue until the people of Newark/Camden/Trenton/Paterson etc. no longer tolerate it.”

It’s an interesting assumption, because not only have I come across it often on sites like NJ.com and NorthJersey.com but I’ve heard it countless times in other places. Apparently, according to a sizable minority of those willing to publish their opinions on the issue, crime in New Jersey’s cities is a result of a lack of civic awareness, pride, activity or organization on the part of our urban dwellers – or all of those things combined.  

It’s interesting. Though most posters do not identify where they’re writing from, I think it’s safe to assume that many, if not all of them, do not live in these depressing cities, rife with crime and poverty. These posters have little idea of the places they’re talking about. That’s too bad, because you no longer have to physically go to Trenton, Newark, Camden or anywhere in New Jersey to get a feel for its topography. You can simply visit Google Maps and take a virtual walk around the streets, and witness the extent of the devastation firsthand. And if one has even more time on their hands, I believe they can even use Google Maps to view a series of photos of the same places over time, to see how a specific neighborhood, lot, etc. has changed.

The problems of New Jersey’s urban centers are complex, of course, and go back decades. But as a former Newark Central Ward teacher and resident, I have to be honest here: if you’re going to accuse Newark or Camden’s people of a lack of civic spirit or capability to organize, you need to look at the physical geography of such places. In short, what kinds of conditions and structures are present that could enable people to organize and, say, challenge poverty, crime and corruption in such cities?

It’s a good question, because it matters. America’s Revolutionaries had their taverns, where they passionately debated and organized against British rule. Abolitionists and later Civil Rights leaders had their Churches, which functioned as vital incubators of organization and leadership. Newark’s former Jewish community had huge, active community centers, especially along what was once High Street (Now MLK Blvd.)  

All of these institutions – and that’s what they were – required time, energy, funding and organization – and space. And now, for the most part, they’re gone. Swept away in a tide of history and drowned out by poverty. Aside from their homes and places of employment, most of our state’s urban residents lack a “Third Place,” where they can simply socialize, which in a free society is the first step in tackling any problem as a community.

Think about it another way. Say you’re a Newark Central Ward resident, and you want to start some sort of council or club or action group. Where would you meet? Really, where?

In the 1920’s and 30’s, many of Newark’s great community gatherings took place in its schools. But under the regime of State Superintendent Cami Anderson, whose contempt for all forms of democracy and civic expression is well known, today this is almost an impossibility. In fact, some parent organizers have even been arrested for posting material on school grounds. It’s a tragedy, because much of the city’s finest physical structures are completely off limits, or nearly impossible to attain, for meeting, debating and organizing.

Okay, so what about other publicly oriented businesses like cafes and coffeehouses? Well you can forget about these too. The last coffeehouse in the Central Ward – a Starbucks – closed in 2009. The event was regarded as so devastating that it was even covered by the New York Times.

And what about the Churches? Yes, there are still some churches active in our inner cities, but aside from Sunday services, they offer few other services for even their own parishioners. And from a practical perspective, from my years and years of walking around Newark and Paterson, I’d say that most Church buildings are locked and sealed shut during the week.

So how are the people of our urban areas supposed to organize if they cannot even find a place to congregate?

I hope there are some meaningful replies to this blog…am I completely wrong here? Am I on to something?  

Some Ideas to Transform Trenton

Crowdsourcing ideas to treat our capital city of Trenton the way its people deserve. I like it. Promoted by Rosi.

New Jersey is a tough place. A tough place to make a living. A tough place for politics. And most of all, a tough place for urbanites. I love this state, its history and potential, but I’m not going to lie to you. New Jersey’s cities are in horrendous shape. Newark, Paterson, Camden and our own state capital, Trenton, are ravaged by crime, poverty and deteriorating infrastructure. In the interest of honesty, we really should change the saying on that famous bridge into Trenton to: Trenton Rots While Jersey Trots.

And it is Trenton in particular that I want to focus on here. The city was once a gem of the Garden State, with neat, brick row houses standing aside historic streets. Bold architecture stood out in marble state buildings while the Golden Dome of the Statehouse dominated all. Its high school – now basically condemned – had its own gallant neoclassical facade attesting to its civic importance.  

Today our capital city is a national embarrassment, and it’s all our fault. Trenton has become symbolic of everything that is wrong with the state and its government. It makes no sense that a geographically small city of 85,000 souls could reach its present state without cowardly neglect. Just blocks away from the Capitol Complex on State Street are neighborhoods inundated with violence and joblessness. Young adults, many clearly in some kind of mental and physical distress, stroll about at all hours, wandering. Former storefronts deteriorate and rot. Even the city’s once-proud Transit Center is, from the point of view of this experienced educator and long-time Jersey resident, damn scary.  

Senator Barbara Buono

Senator Barbara Buono is the only Democrat who has declared her intent to run for Governor this year. Yet, the mainstream media and her own party seem to be looking beyond her candidacy for a more conventional politician to take up the charge.

As I wrote last week, the truth is that Barbara Buono has the best chance of pulling off the political upset of the decade. Thanks to the Democratic leadership, she’s a Trenton “outsider” and provides the clearest contrast to the policies of Governor Christie. She brings the women’s vote to the table, not because of her gender, but because of her advocacy for issues that are important to women and to the men who are also concerned about these issues. In a state with exactly zero women in our congressional delegation, a woman in Drumthwacket helps alleviate this unevenness in the halls of power.

I met with Senator Buono in Metuchen this morning to discuss the campaign and how she would govern the state if she moves from the Senate wing into the big office.

Disclosure: I have contributed to the Buono campaign. But not as much as the Koch Brothers have contributed to Chris Christie.