Asbury Park Needs Community Support To Quell Shootings [AUDIO]
A spike in gun violence in Asbury Park is causing a concern not only for residents of the city, but poses a new challenge for police to address.
Asbury Park is undoubtedly a different city than it was years ago. A vibrant downtown, an eclectic entertainment scene, and beautiful ocean have made it an attraction for visitors and a new wave of residents. However, while much of the city is enjoying the fruits of an overall safer Asbury Park, police are contending with a spike of gun violence that has dozens dead or injured.
The city has had 43 shooting for the year, a large amount for a municipality that is just 1.4 square miles. However, police note the shootings are concentrated to one part of the city, a southern section on the city's west side. That community of just over five thousand homeowners, mostly lower income and African American, is in general a hotspot for crime. Over half of the city's robberies and most of the drug trade is in that area.
Asbury Park police say while overall violent crime is down, the increase in gun violence is not only primarily relegated to one part of the city but also believed to carried out by many of the same actors.
"Most of the violence in terms of gun violence have not been random acts of violence," Says Asbury Park Detective Captain Anthony Solerno. He notes one of the biggest problems they have dealing with this kind of violence is getting support from the community.
The police department has directed much of their over 80-person police force towards the high crime areas and a narcotics and gang unit has been active, taking over a hundred guns off the street in the past year. Though Solerno points out, more police isn't the magic bullet solution.
"These acts of violence are planned, and when they're planned, they planned to take place when there is no police officers in the area."
He says what they are missing is true support from the community.
"The public does not come forward as witnesses, most people anonymously and even if they do speak to us, refuse to cooperate through investigations."
However, Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Chris Gramiccione says any kind of information is still welcome and info can be taken anonymously.
"I think there's a misconception in cities like Asbury where if you provide police officers confidential information…that it means automatically you're going to be sitting on the stand eyeballing a person in court as someone you saw committing a particular crime. The reality is in 90 plus percent of the cases, that's not the situation."
He notes his office is dealing with a mentality of "Don't Snitch" that purveys not only Asbury Park, but cities throughout the country.
"What I'm trying to do is just rid the public of the notion that every time you communicate information it means you're going to be publicly identified as someone who ratted, who snitched. That's not the case here."
Solerno says for there to be lasting changes, the judicial system needs to prosecute and keep them off the streets, and the community needs to demand it.
He points out with Mark Kinmon taking over duties as police chief for the city, there has been drastic improvements to the way they fight crime. Notably the amount of outside agencies Kinmon has brought in to assist in catching criminals.
"We have had many outside agencies assisting us. From the state police to ATF, DEA, FBI, United States Marshalls, Monmouth County's Sheriff's, as well as our primary partners the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office. That's a large contingent of assistance."
Anyone with any information can call the Asbury Park Tip Line (732) 774-1300, detectives can be reached directly at (732) 502-5770.