Anti-Violence Summit Pushes Statewide Cooperation [AUDIO]
No longer willing to let violent crime be a regional problem, law enforcement officials from across the state are partnering with community leaders and nonprofits to form partnerships and look at new strategies to address the issue.
Over 300 people attended the inaugural New Jersey Anti-Violence Summit, held Tuesday at the Livingston Student Center at Rutgers University, with the express purpose of sharing different strategies for tackling crime.
"They can bring back to their communities, 'Hey, did you hear about what's going on in Atlantic City, did you hear about what's going on in Trenton, or Newark, or Asbury Park? Here's what's working, here's what probably wouldn't work for us,'" said acting Attorney General John Hoffman, one of the main speakers for the summit.
Both Hoffman and U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman reiterated the point that violent crime is not something "they can arrest their way out of"; rather, a more holistic approach is needed.
"Towns with inadequate housing, communities with too few jobs, schools that are underperforming and dangerous, and parks that are littered with needles and shell casings are not going to nourish a culture that is safe and secure," said Fishman.
The summit also addressed the reality of short-staffing and budget cuts, and how police departments can effectively overcome those challenges. Fishman said while nothing can compare to having a fully-staffed department, building relationships with the community can be a force multiplier as well as an invaluable tool in crime fighting.
"What that does, is it lets the people in the community trust the cops," Fishman said. "That matters. If they don't trust them to behave in the right way, police is not effective."
While many of the discussions centered around curbing violent crime in urban centers like Trenton, Newark, and Camden, the threat of violence spilling over into suburban communities is a very real issue.
Hoffman said the key is maintaining a countywide approach to crime fighting, rather than focusing just on urban areas like Trenton.
Both Hoffman and Fishman said finding new ways to address the state's growing heroin epidemic will be vital in curbing the spread of violent crime into the suburbs.