PATERSON, NJ – The city’s public safety problems boiled over in 2011. More crimes were reported in Paterson last year than in any of the previous seven years. The number of non-fatal shootings doubled. Layoffs reduced the ranks of the police department by about 25 percent.
In marches, in prayer services and in their comments at community meetings, Patersonians have demanded a safer city. What will the candidates in the May 8 City Council elections do to improve public safety? PatersonPress.com posed several questions to the candidates on this issue and has been posting separate stories on the responses provided by the candidates in each race. Today, we focus on the 6rd Ward. In this race, Eliecer Montoya, Maria Rivas, and Councilman Andre Sayegh are vying for the seat. Montoya did not provide answers.
PatersonPress.com: What qualifications or qualities should Paterson's next police chief have? Explain.
Maria Rivas: I believe the next Paterson’s police chief should have experience, professionalism and a love for the city of Paterson.
Andre Sayegh: Paterson's next police chief should know the city's neighborhoods and the personnel he will work with. An ideal chief would be a Paterson resident who frequently collaborates with our houses of worship, neighborhood associations and non-profit organizations to ensure that our efforts to reduce crime are successful. Furthermore, Paterson's next police chief should be familiar with ComputerStatistics (CompStat), the Broken Windows Theory, and Community Oriented Policing (COPS ).
As far as qualities are concerned, our next chief should be of high moral character. His approach should be firm but fair. Most importantly, he should adopt a zero tolerance attitude toward quality of life violations.
PatersonPress.com: Who among the city's current high-ranking officers do you consider best qualified to become the chief? Why?
Andre Sayegh: I have worked with the current Acting Chief William Fraher for the past two months and have found him to be responsive and resourceful. One of his main attributes is that he takes a no-nonsense approach to policing and will instill increased discipline within the force.
Deputy Chief Robert Drace is a Paterson resident which is a plus. Although I have not worked extensively with him, the reports I have received about his performance hitherto have been positive.
Through our budget hearings, I have come to know Deputy Chief Danny Nichols. He knows his numbers and I am confident that he has a working knowledge of various policing techniques such as CompStat and COPS.
Maria Rivas: In my opinion, this question needs to be left for the police officers and the department in itself in determining who would be the most effective leader.
PatersonPress.com: Is Paterson's crime problem the result of the quality of the police work being done in the city or the quantity of police officers? Please expound.
Maria Rivas: The crime problem is community based with problems of poverty, drug abuse and broken families. The police department should be congratulated with their excellent work with limited resources.
Andre Sayegh: Paterson's crime problem goes beyond policing. Our public safety efforts must be coordinated. Faith-based institutions, non-profit organizations and other groups who are "laboring in the vineyard" should be working together. In the 6th Ward we created a neighborhood association and a quality of life committee. Moreover, we also established a courtesy notice system where we issue notices to neighbors when they are not maintaining their properties and are illegally parking their cars but we also are vigilant relative to other violations. We cite city ordinances and ensure enforcement.
We also created 5 new Neigborhood Watch groups throughout the 6th Ward to go along with our existing and effective Neighborhood Watch group in the Lakeview section. The Neighborhood Watch groups were created through collaboration with the Paterson Police Department.
PatersonPress.com: What changes - if any - do you think should be made in the operation of the police department?
Andre Sayegh: At the very least, 25 of the recently laid off police officers should be brought back.A city our size should have a minimum of 400 on the beat. In addition, we should have more foot patrols especially in our business districts. Our Police Department should also engage in increased collaboration with other law enforcement officials namely the Passaic County Sheriff's Department.
Maria Rivas: I believe that the police department would benefit from more resources, better equipment and better compensation.
PatersonPress.com: What should city government do in terms of public policy to address Paterson's crime problem?
Maria Rivas: In my opinion, I believe that the city government would need to make the city more business friendly to attract new sources of ratables which will generate more resources to fight crime in Paterson.
Andre Sayegh: I am proud to say that the members of the Municipal Council, the Administration and the Police Department have helped take action against troublesome establishments in the 6th Ward such as Charlie's Angels, Alex's Playground, Gemini Bar, and the Lava Hookah Lounge. I believe that the aforementioned collaborative model should be continued as a form of progressive public policy.
Our existing ordinances must be enforced especially when it deals with loud music and loitering. Legislation should focus on addressing minor problems before they become major problems. Regulating restaurant hours within residential areas is just one example of how to uphold a high standard of living in our neighborhoods.