Jersey City Director of Public Safety James Shea recently defended the city police department’s ‘fixed post’ policy as a public safety enforcement tool and pledged to maintain them in the foreseeable future.
“I think it’s the best use of our resources,” Shea said. “It worked and brought our shoots back almost to our pre-covid levels.” He offered no statistics to back up that claim.
Mayor Steve Fulop echoed his support for the strategy despite the fact that “it takes a lot of overtime” to complete. “The biggest request we get from residents in all parts of the city is for additional landlines in their blocks,” he added. Proof of its effectiveness, he added, is that there are “always shots when a fixed post is removed from an area”.
Shea and Fulop presented their demands Aug. 18 at a community meeting at Bethune Center called by Ward F council member Frank Gilmore following an Aug. 7 shooting at Monticello Avenue and Astor Place that killed a 46-year-old man and injured another. . The incident is still under investigation.
Earlier in the night, police reported two other episodes of street crime: a shooting originating from Lexington Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard after which the suspected shooter fled after injuring two men; and in a separate incident, a dispute between rival neighborhood groups that ended with two men shot dead at Harmon Street and Arlington Avenue.
Alarmed residents of the south section of Jersey City peppered the city’s police chiefs with questions about protecting public safety at the meeting, which was also attended by Ward A council member Denise Ridley, whose Greenville voters also often fear street violence.
As a further defense of the landline policy, Shea cited an “extensive study of Jersey City homicides” the police department conducted a decade ago which he said showed a pattern of rivalries. longtime neighborhood where “Marion (part of Journal Square) wants to shoot Wilkinson (Avenue in Greenville); Wade (Avenue) wants to shoot Warner (Avenue). And even if they don’t know anyone there, they just want to shoot someone, and you have innocent bystanders getting hit.
So, Shea said, “Where we have blocks that are historically bad, we’re going to go there and stay there and we’re going to hold them until they stop (the shootings). I believe this is the best use of our resources. And we will maintain (the fixed positions) until (the shooting) stops.
In many cases, Shea said, “shooters and victims are often interchangeable” and, in such cases, “it usually happens within sight of the house they grew up in. Trivial arguments escalate into shots.” fire, usually involving people who have known each other their whole lives. In Jersey City, we don’t have drug wars or people from Newark trying to take over Jersey City.
Shea acknowledged that in some cases, “street crews” move to other locations faster than departmental oversight can catch them. In such cases, he called on the community to alert officers to such movements so the Department can adjust accordingly.
To supplement the fixed posts, the Department has launched “foot patrols” along blocks such as Claremont, Orient, Myrtle, Grant, Van Nostrand and Woodlawn Avenues and Oak Street, all in the south area of the city, according to a superior of the police. For Gilmore, these patrols deserve more attention from the Department.
“I think we’ll get more bang for our buck if we have some walking cops,” he said. “They can often see what’s going on, and we have enough staff to do that.”
But Gilmore was equally quick to note that, “unless we get to the root cause” of the street violence, “we aren’t tackling the real issues”, which, as residents put it, highlighted last week, can and do emerge as issues such as deviant behavior resulting from drug activity, homelessness and mental health issues.
Two residents mentioned that children going to school had to “step on” alcoholics or “drug addicts” on the way, especially those lying in front of Claremont Presbyterian Church and Our Lady of Sorrows. One woman compared the experience to walking through “the walking dead”.
Gilmore easily agreed. “I see him every morning,” he said. “It looks like a row of skids, and I know how traumatic it is for a child.”
Fulop acknowledged the problem, saying, “It’s one of the most complicated issues we deal with,” not just in Ward F, but “in all parts of the city, with the hope that we can help those who need it”. The mayor said the city plans to allocate $500,000 to several providers to send trained mental health professionals into the community in hopes of persuading those in need to accept help.
Staff from the city’s health and human services department are developing application specifications for this program, the mayor said.
The mayor was asked why the city does not share information about violent crimes with the public. He said the city does this by giving it to the Jersey Journal, which chooses what it wants to publish.
Gilmore said it was essential for the city — with the help of the grassroots anti-violence coalition, local clergy and bloc associations — to get our hands on these multifaceted issues.
“Unless we get to the root cause, we’re not fixing these issues,” he said.