Report urges community services, not police, to stem violence in NJ

TRENTON – Amid concerns about rising violence, especially among armed people, a new report suggests that the state focus on community alternatives rather than increased policing to stem the tide.

Marleina Ubel, policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said community-led programs can do more effective work in reducing crime and improving safety, health and educational attainment. She said she doesn’t expect police to fight the idea if the legislature passes it.

“We are talking about investing in models that serve communities in crisis. We’re not talking about doing anything from the police or taking anything from the police, ”Ubel said.

Reverend Charles Boyer, founding director of Salvation and Social Justice, said the current approach to public safety makes no sense – not providing any support to people, then sending armed police officers who would rather not be confronted with addiction and mental health issues. .

“It’s just not what they signed up for, and it’s definitely not what they’re equipped for,” Boyer said.

A campaign to shift to non-police responses to non-violent situations involving mental health and substance abuse kicks off Monday with a conference at an Elizabeth Church.

The NJPP report found that Elizabeth spends more than five times as much of her police budget as her health and social services department. In Gloucester County, police got two and a half times the spending on health and social services programs.

“The way we do things doesn’t make us a safer society,” Boyer said. “It only exacerbates the problems.”

The Newark Community Street Team is offering this type of alternative response in the state’s largest city, with the goal of connecting residents with addiction and mental health help they usually don’t know about. not even that they are available.

“When we are able to serve upstream victims, we prevent them from becoming downstream perpetrators – and they are victims of crime and victims of systems,” said Solomon Middleton-Williams, deputy director of NCST.

Ubel said there was money available through the US federal bailout for these types of community-led responses.

“And in the long run, programs like this have been shown to save communities money,” she said.

Boyer said the state and cities are already spending the money – but on the police, rather than on programs that could keep people away from addiction and mental health issues.

“New Jersey can do better. New Jersey needs to do better, ”said Boyer. “Let’s put people first, and don’t put police profits and budgets ahead of people. “

Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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