Enhanced enforcement is the best first step to addressing our crime issue in Asbury Park. With over 80 police officers in a City that is a little larger than one square mile, we should be better able to police our streets.
What has worked in other communities would also make me feel safer in my neighborhood; a clear strategy to deal with gang violence, police walking/biking the beat more often, and stricter code enforcement. As this is essentially police work, the Asbury Police Department must lead this effort. The development of a comprehensive plan should also involve the City Council, community activists, the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office, the State Police, and it must be made public.
As gang members commit our most violent crimes, a specific gang intervention component is key. This strategy must focus on putting the hardcore gang leaders in jail and lower level members into intervention programs outside of Asbury Park. A few model programs suggested by community members that have found success in other urban areas include the Highpoint Interventionstrategy, Counterinsurgency Cops that employ a block-by-block approach, Cities United, and Violence Interrupters.
Consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey, the crime on our streets has been more than ever on the minds of residents. In an effort to continue the discussion already underway in our community I will be sharing a few ideas that have helped me better grasp the issue as well as suggesting some possible actions. In a series of three letters I will address the fundamental underpinnings of crime, enforcement, and how to better support our community members.
Aristotle said, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” To understand our crime issue, we must first understand the devastating role poverty plays in our community. The socio-economic and emotional impacts of poverty directly correlate with insufficient family and community support. This absence of adequate support limits options and makes it near impossible for our young people to succeed.
The Center for Disease Control publishes risk and protective factors for youth violence. The risk factors, such as low parental income and diminished economic opportunity, read like a laundry list of Asbury Park’s problems. Poverty not only increases the risk factors but also decreases protective ones. Our youth live in broken homes, substandard housing, and without basic services like simple healthcare. As a result many turn to gangs for protection, financial opportunity, and a sense of belonging. This American Life did a two-part special on Harper High School (part I & part II) in Chicago that illustrates the lack of options for poor minority youth in urban areas like Asbury Park. For too many, gang involvement and violence are a given, not a choice.