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,



  1. Broken windows...
    If I can drink across the street from city hall and the police station in public on Watchung Avenue..why can't I sell drugs in the West End of the city ????

    Quality of life issues addressed HEAVY handed across the ENTIRE CITY. Make the city a place where committing a crime is uncomfortable not easy.

  2. I think that so far the best idea I've heard is the Plainfields Most Wanted. In addition to the city website though, they should be posted in the newspaper, and hopefully the blogs will also repost. The other best idea, albeit radical, and highly unlikely, is to legalize all drugs, and take the profit out of the illegal activities surrounding their sale. So simple. I guess the downside is that if there are people who are only not using drugs because they are illegal, then they might start. But if the drugs are clean and regulated, maybe that wouldnt be so bad.

  3. At the 4th Ward meeting, the officer said it best. The police cannot make the area safe if the people will not help.

    Call for any activity before it happens. The police respond and the low lifes get the message that they are being watched and the police will respond. Do not wait until something happens - call before!