The plan of law enforcement and the Governor to address gang violence includes a strong emphasis on high-tech policing.
The people of this state deserve safe streets and neighborhoods where they can walk outside and run errands without fear of violence. The people of this state deserve an end to gang and gun violence that is stealing young lives and destroying our communities.
I have spent more than a year—at the direction of Governor Corzine—developing a comprehensive anti-crime strategy to combat violent street crime. The strategy recognizes that law enforcement is not enough to combat crime; we will never be able to solve the problems of crime and gang violence solely through arrests. To this end, the Governor’s anti-crime strategy for safe streets and neighborhoods, announced in October, uses a three-pronged approach to reducing gang violence, violent crime and recidivism: Enforcement, Prevention, and Reentry.
Prevention Gangs in our State have grown in size and scope and are now present in 40 percent of our municipalities. To combat gang-related violence, state law enforcement has targeted gangs and gang leaders, arresting and prosecuting approximately 200 gang members. The fight against gangs requires that police departments have the capacity to collect crime data, produce and assess intelligence, and develop and implement police strategies that solve—and even prevent—crime, rather than react to it.
It is a method of policing that has been embraced by the State Police known as intelligence-led policing. It depends on police leadership embracing new technology and strategies, analysis of crime data and intelligence, and officers with strong relationships with the communities they serve.
Technology Our role is to assist our municipal police departments move toward intelligence-led, data-driven policing strategies. Central to this strategy are local assessments of the gang problem, the creation of interagency task forces to target violent gangs, and overcoming witness intimidation.
Intelligence-led policing allows us to be pro-active, rather than waiting for a 9-1-1 call. But it doesn’t work without data collection and analysis. We must build that data base. It means local gang assessments by county prosecutors. It means creating a new template of basic technologies that will enable police departments to collect and assess crime information and to respond quickly and effectively.
Real Time Policing Modern computer-aided dispatch and record management systems enable police departments to more effectively and efficiently respond to crime and enable departments to better identify priorities.
Real time policing allows your patrol officers to be better informed. It allows police commanders to better and more efficiently assign officers in high crime areas. It allows police departments to spot trends.
We are going to work with technology professionals from the State Police and some municipal departments to develop a template for basic technologies necessary to support intelligence-led policing strategies. We have to work together to assess our needs and identify solutions.
The ROIC I want departments to track shootings, gang affiliations and all crime data. Crime data should be reported on a monthly basis. Gun and gang offenses should be reported within eight hours. That data should be sent to our state-of-the art Regional Operations and Information Center—the ROIC—at State Police headquarters in West Trenton for further analysis.
By having the ability to identify and analyze local and regional crime trends, we gain the ability to respond quickly and effectively. By collecting data statewide, the ROIC will be able to analyze and disseminate intelligence information that will be available to all.
Helping Those At-risk Our job would be far easier if kids did not take up a life of crime. So we need to double our efforts to help at-risk kids from being wooed by gangs. Simply stated, at its core, prevention saves lives.
The state already spends millions of dollars annually on prevention programs through programs at various state agencies. But it has been a fragmented system without coordination, collaboration or consultation among departments.
Benchmarks and Goals This strategy, for the first time, will allow for the coordination of funding in order to avoid duplication and demand accountability. We are going to require non-profits and municipalities to show us that their programs produce results. There will be benchmarks, and there will be goals.
This strategy embraces a variety of different governmental and non-governmental programs, targeting those areas that we have identified as most protective of our youth; namely, supporting families in their communities, expanding opportunities for youth enrichment, job training and employment, emphasizing the importance of education and mentoring relationships, and reducing truancy(a key risk factor in future delinquency).
Wherever feasible, the plan seeks to facilitate the implementation of Model Programs for prevention and intervention. At the same time, however, the plan envisions a longer-term goal of developing a comprehensive continuum for at-risk youth.
Community Justice Coordinators We will encourage municipal planning and programming of juvenile delinquency programs, and intend to expand Family Success Centers which provide a range of services at one central location. We also plan to fund at least 12 community justice coordinators, through the county prosecutors, who will assist in the development and evaluation of delinquency and prevention strategies.
We will support expanding evidence-based primary prevention programs such as a national model program run by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and mentoring programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. These types of programs offer communities the opportunity to develop primary delinquency prevention programs that address risk factors and increase protective factors for kids at risk.
The Youth Jobs and Training Initiative Encouraging interest in education and work can reduce delinquency and provide youth with both short and long-term pathways to employment that increase their work capacity and also increase the likelihood of improved long-term outcomes. The Governor’s Youth Jobs and Training Initiative will provide alternatives to gangs and guns, by providing youth, ages 14-25, with an opportunity to work and prepare for a future career.
Research has shown that young people who do not have an interest in, or access to, education, training or fulfilling employment are more likely to engage in offending behavior. This strategy aims to ensure that they have the opportunities they need to succeed.
Successful Reentry We also know we face a tough problem with released offenders who do not walk the straight and narrow when they leave prison. Each year, almost 16,000 adult and juvenile offenders are released from state custody. And, approximately 65 percent of offenders are re-arrested within five years. We have to stop this revolving door.
Successful re-entry requires collaboration among state agencies and private partners to meet education, treatment, housing, employment, and health care needs of those released.
But that is easier said than done. Successful implementation of our anti-crime strategy will require hard work, cooperation and community involvement. The Governor’s strategy was built with the belief that we have to target the most dangerous members of criminal gangs and prevent the flow of illegal guns. We know that can mean new techniques, new approaches and new technology.
The bottom line is to always remember that our primary responsibility in government is to keep people safe. The people of New Jersey deserve no less.