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Trenton councilman presents plan to address violence

September 15, 2016

TRENTON >> City Councilman Duncan Harrison said gun violence has hit close to home more than once.

At a fiery press conference Wednesday on the dangerous corner of Stuyvesant and Hoffman avenues, Harrison said his cousin was shot two blocks away about two weeks ago, his nephew suffered a gunshot wound recently and his best friend, 21-year-old Tamar Lasan Smith, was gunned down at Donnelly Homes in 2006.

“I feel the pain that this community goes through on a day-to-day basis,” Harrison said, adding that he is tired of it. “Too many lives have been cut short.”

Recognizing a recent uptick in violence that resulted in three murders this past week, the at-large councilman presented a five-point violence reduction strategy to address the bloodshed.

First and most importantly, Harrison wants to hire 30 additional homegrown police officers.

“The city must do everything it can to find qualified Trentonians who are interested in policing and living in our community,” he said. “If you know of a Trentonian, tell them to step up and apply for the position because we want Trentonians patrolling and interacting with our community.”

Harrison, a freshman councilman, also seeks to improve technology to combat crime. He wants to expand the use of the detection system that pinpoints the location of gunfire. ShotSpotter is currently only used in certain areas and Harrison wants to make the technology available citywide.

“I’ve had a conversation with the police detectives that monitor the cameras and they have been instrumental in helping to solve some crimes here,” Harrison said.

The gunshot technology would be coupled with the addition of 100 more high-definition cameras that have the capability to swivel 180 degrees in key locations throughout the city, Harrison said.

The councilman also referenced improvements to lighting in the city.

Last month, The Trentonian exposed inadequate lighting in the capital city as a possible contributor to crime.

“Most times I see people walking in the middle of the street and I ask them why?” Harrison said. “They say, ‘Well, it’s too dark to walk on the sidewalk. I don’t know what may happen.’”

Harrison is calling for 500 more street lights in the city, in addition to fixing the existing ones that are broken. The councilman said the city needs to find local vendors who can help trim trees that are blocking good working lights, which was also referenced in the Trentonian story.

Furthermore, the councilman put businesses on blast that present a “nuisance” in the city.

“Any business that allows loitering and criminal activity in front of it needs to be shut down,” Harrison said as his voice grew louder.

Finally, the councilman took to task social media commenters who claim “there is nothing to do in Trenton.”

“I beg to differ because there are a lot of programs here in the city of Trenton,” Harrison said.

To highlight all of the city’s programs and activities, the councilman wants to hold a resource activity fair twice a year where parents can sign their kids up for activities at the beginning of the school year and the start of summer.

Harrison realizes the community has to be involved for his strategy to have success.

“All of this means nothing if parents and guardians do not stand up and take back their homes from their children,” he said. “We have to stop expecting police, teachers, social workers and government to raise our children. We can and have to do better.”

To fund this plan, which Harrison estimates will cost $500,000 to $700,000, the councilman said he is looking at capital funding, Community Development Block Grant funding, and monies from the general operating budget.

The Trentonian: Trenton