The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Monday, May 16, 2011

Improving Public Safety in Plainfield: True "Community" Policing Is Necessary

Note: Although I was elected as Councilwoman for the 2nd and 3rd Wards At-large, every decision/vote I make affects all residents in the city. I hear from citizens (especially seniors) in Wards 1, 2, 3, and 4, as I am sure my fellow councilors do. I care about everyone in our city, and no matter what "ward" of Plainfield anyone lives in, I am available to help--I always give out my contact information to every resident I meet, and I receive calls, emails, and requests from every section of our city.  

The main focus at last week's City Council Town Hall Meeting at Clinton School was on violent crime--whether gang-related or not. Residents stood and asked the city council what was being done, and we did our best to clarify our legislative role. It is the mayor and her administration who are in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city, and the mayor is the chief executive who decides how police resources will be used.

The head of Plainfield's Gang Unit did his best to reassure those in attendance at the meeting that they are working as hard as they can--also noting that some strategies must, for necessities' sake, remain confidential. 
 
I serve on the City Council's Public Safety Committee (along with Councilor Rivers) and, earlier today, met with Director Hellwig to find out how our police resources are being used to combat the rise in violent crime. In addition to creating the CCTV surveillance for the downtown area and utilizing other 21st century technology that has been proven effective, a number of other initiatives are being examined--the police division is responsible for carrying out the mayor's directives, whatever they may be.

However, one of the immediate changes that came out of last week's meeting is that two police officers are being re-deployed to walking posts at West End/Elmwood Gardens. The officers will be there in the evenings, walking through these two complexes. Residents should see them on foot and this presence should be able to alleviate some concerns about response times. This is the kind of Community Policing that residents want, and that has proven effective--as the officers get to know the community, feelings of mutual trust and safety develop, creating a safer environment.

A number of other strategies also need to be utilized, such as instituting a voluntary curfew at a reasonable hour (say, 10:00 pm) for those 16 and under, neighborhood watch patrols, having businesses close at an earlier hour. The voluntary curfew, however, can only be accomplished if the community is willing to acknowledge it. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other caregivers have to put on that "guardian" role and compel the young people within their sphere of influence to go inside at a reasonable hour--there is no reason for those 16 and under to be hanging out late when they could be reading, working on school projects, having family time, or frankly, just getting a good night's sleep before going to school the next morning. 

Another strategy that I feel would be effective is to have a "Plainfield's Most Wanted" page on the Police Division section of the city's new web site (scheduled to launch in June, I am told). Anyone with open warrants would have his/her photograph, a description, what the warrant is for, and other pertinent information out there,making it easier for everyone to get involved and purge the community of those who willfully violate the law and make us all unsafe and fearful. 

The folks I have been speaking to every day all across our city--those who are most affected by the violence--seem to like this idea, especially the senior citizens, and the parents of the kids in the most vulnerable age range for gang activity (mostly young boys, ages 11-16). They want their children to grow up healthy, happy, and safe--the rest of the community can help, because we're all in this together. Again, though, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other caregivers have the ultimate responsibility in making sure that those in their care (our kids) are kept out of harm's way--a curfew would be an effective immediate step that will not cost them a dime.

Regarding how else residents can help--they must CALL IN ANY SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY when they see it. As many residents, as well as the police, have already noted, some folks are reluctant to call, as they have concerns about anonymity and possible retaliation. The gang unit officer assured all of us that the calls are kept confidential.

Shot detection devices that may enable police to respond more quickly to shootings are also being evaluated by the police director. Before anything is put in place, though, the council will have an opportunity to review data and statistics and have comprehensive information presented to us before the allocation of funds is decided.

Again, I will keep you informed about the crime-fighting efforts being made by our Public Safety Division--you deserve to know.

All best,

Rebecca

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

City Council Town Hall Meeting Tonight at Clinton K-8 Center, 4th Ward

Clinton K-8 Center, 1302 W. 4th St. (at Clinton Ave.)

Please note this is another slightly revised iteration from an earlier blog post--updated a bit!

Dear residents, 

The Plainfield City Council will be holding its fourth Town Hall Meeting this evening, Wednesday, May 11, from 7:00-9:00 pm at Clinton K-8 Center, located in Plainfield's 4th Ward, at 1302 West Fourth Street City council town halls offer an opportunity for you to speak directly to the council about issues of concern facing our city. 

The residents at some of the previous town halls have voiced their thoughts and feelings on rising taxes, public safety issues, gang violence, the extremely high murder rate in the first quarter of this year, lack of job opportunities, road reconstruction, speeding, PMUA fees, home foreclosures, code enforcement, the investigation into misappropriation and possibly illegal use of city funds without council knowledge or approval, low turnout for city recreation programs, flood zone maps, government wastefulness, unfilled mayoral cabinet positions, and lack of responsiveness on the part of the administration to the residents. 

Although some of these issues are beyond the ability of the city council to resolve (as we are legally constrained from being involved in the day-to-day operations of the city), please know that all your concerns will be directly and immediately communicated to the mayor (who is also the acting city administrator) and that the council will make sure there is accountability to you as residents regarding how public funds are allocated and spent. In addition, we will be sure to direct you to the appropriate division or department so that you have the ability to follow up on your own as well.

These town halls are designed for US to hear from YOU, not the other way around. As one with a tendency to be verbose (lol), I will certainly keep that in mind (if called upon to respond directly), and I pledge to you that will keep my responses brief. You can also reach me at another time to talk more in-depth.

I am hopeful that this final town hall meeting will be filled to capacity with residents who want to work with the council to help move our city forward--I was heartened by the desire on the part of many of those in attendance at the first three to volunteer their expertise (financial, legal, etc.) to the city!

As your 2nd and 3rd Ward Councilor At-Large, however, I may call additional town meetings of my own to hear from those of you who are unable to attend this current round. As always, you may reach out to me via cell phone or email (at left).

All best,

Rebecca 
 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!


Happy Mother's Day to all! 
See you on the campaign trail!


Honest,Ethical Leadership for Plainfield 
(H.E.L.P.) is here!