Paterson authorities seek community help
Following the death of 12-year-old Genesis Rincon from a stray bullet, Paterson law enforcement officials are asking for the public's help in battling future crime in the area.
Community pressure was credited for causing city resident Jhymiere Moore, 19, to turn himself in as the prime suspect in Rincon's shooting. During a press conference Wednesday in Paterson, Passaic County prosecutor Camelia Valdes said the city's 4th Ward has accounted for over half of the murders in Paterson this year.
"Unfortunately, every time my phone goes off and there's a notification about a shooting, I can almost guess where that shooting took place," Valdes said.
While Valdes praised the efforts of law enforcement, she also pointed out the importance of the community in being vigilant about reporting crime.
As is the case with many inner cities, Valdes said law enforcement in Paterson has struggled to establish a line of communication with residents. However, recent spikes in violence largely fueled by the drug trade -- particularly heroin -- have brought the crisis to a breaking point.
"What we're finding is community leaders, certainly members of our clergy, they're stepping up and they want to be involved," Valdes said, "because they're the ones who know, they're present when something happens."
In the area of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Street in Paterson, a memorial has been constructed for Genesis Rincon, with mourners visiting to light candles, leave flowers and write messages. For residents in that neighborhood, the shooting is just a microcosm of how out of control crime has become.
"I've been living here all my life, I've grown up here, and I've never seen it as bad as it is," said one resident.
While some blame city officials and police for not trying hard enough to curtail crime, one former resident of Warren Street said the responsibility doesn't fall on one group.
"I don't think the community has done enough to combat crime, I don't think the churches have done enough to combat crime," the man said. "I think it's a group effort."
He said many simple changes can be made to reduce crime in the area, and improve quality of life.
"If you look around, you'll see the number of abandoned houses, and liquor stores illegally selling hard liquor after 10 p.m.," he said. "I think all of those things contribute to the problems that the city has."
Paterson mayor Jose Torres announced 26 new police officers will be added by the end of the month, thanks to a federal grant.