HAMILTON, NJ -- While Mayor Kelly Yaede and Council President Jeff Martin agreed that public safety was a top priority for the township, the two candidates facing off in the November 5 mayoral election could not agree on the local crime rate trend.
Martin stated that the crime rate has increased by eight percent since the last mayoral election while Yaede contends that crime has decreased by 17 percent.
The mayor noted the addition of two new officers to the Hamilton Township Police Department last year, and added that she believes that there needs to continue to be two-way communication between the police and community.
“You always have to look at how can we do it better. Community policing, we’ve changed that, and we have more officers out on the street,” said Yaede.
“If we’re not feeling safe here in Hamilton, it doesn’t matter about the rest,” said Martin. He added that as a member of Township Council he ensured that new police vehicles were put in the budget and made sure that all police officers all had the same firearms.
Yaede, who stressed her family’s history in the fire service, said she believes that the Hamilton Township Fire Department, currently operated as nine separate districts, would come under municipal control “in the near future.” She added that she believed that there needed to be “equity” among all firefighters in areas such as paying for health benefits.
Martin reiterated his staunch support for fire district consolidation referencing his experience in the U.S. Air Force where “you have a singular chain of command.”
“That’s what consolidating our fire districts would do. You will now have one chief. You will have one singular chain of command,” added Martin, who noted the savings that consolidation would bring to some areas of Hamilton.
Martin has been endorsed by the FMBA Local 84 and 284.
Forum moderator Rev. Dr. James Woods asked the candidates to address the disparity in crime rates across parts of Hamilton Township.
Martin stressed the importance of community policing to go out into the community.
“Diversity is going to be an important part of fighting crime. Diversity on our police force, diversity in our township in employment positions. That’s how we build trust. That's how you let our youth who are a different race, a different creed look up to somebody,” said Martin.
Yaede said she has pushed for an increased police presence in the community, focusing on the anti-crime unit.
“What they see in our highest crime areas is unbelievable. You never put politics into it, and then you get out of their way,” said Yaede.
More TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville coverage of the candidates forum to come.
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