Constituent Questions: Crime
The West Orange Chronicle posed questions to each candidate for Mayor of West Orange. We understand that they plan to publish a summary and endorsement of Mayoral candidates this week. This is my response to their question regarding residents' concerns about crime in West Orange:
Every person should feel safe in their homes, their neighborhood, and their town. I personally know many of our police officers and I know that they do an exemplary job day in and day out. I also talk to our Chief of Police regularly and I look at West Orange crime trends that show crime in West Orange is comparatively quite low. That said, we have had some quite alarming instances in recent months. The murder on Watson Avenue that occurred in September is incredibly upsetting, sad, and disturbing. I am grateful that our police were on the scene quickly and I am hopeful that the incident appears to have been an isolated one, but our municipal government needs to engage with residents in that area to better understand the community’s concerns. From my conversations with residents in that area, I know that they may feel neglected by the municipal government and I think we need to build community connections between residents and our municipal officers. Part of that will occur when we have more diverse representation in our municipal government and continued anti-bias training for all municipal employees, including police officers, that I initiated as a Coucilmember. Part of that will occur by having the Chief of Police continue to work to build relationships with residents. I also know that morale among our police officers is low and that the police department is almost 25% understaffed, forcing officers sometimes to work multiple shifts. I will make it a priority to ensure that we have a fully staffed police department, full anti-bias training for the police, and community engagement, and I commit to making sure that every resident in our community feels safe in their homes. We have to end the insularity that plagues our municipal government and improve officials’ and municipal staff’s engagement with every neighborhood.
One disturbing nationwide trend that has shown itself in West Orange is a rise in antisemitic hate crime. We have had local instances in West Orange and surrounding towns of swastikas graffittied around synagogues or temples. Thankfully, the perpetrators in these instances have been apprehended and addressed, but our community has to be aware of rising antisemitism and the grave threat it brings. We have to recognize that national issues impact us here in West Orange and we have to remain vigilant for the safety and security of all of our residents. We have to address antisemitism, racism, homophobia, and all forms of hate and bias that keep us from living up to our full potential. Again, the answer from a municipal government standpoint is to end the insularity of the administration, engage with every neighborhood and community in our town, and make sure that we have a fully staffed police force with ongoing anti-bias training so that officers understand the context in which they operate. Prioritizing these things allows us to confront and address all forms of hate and crime.
I remain encouraged by the way that I see our community come together in times of crisis. I want to make sure that we all feel included, valued, and safe in our homes and in our town.