PATERSON, NJ- Just hours before gunfire broke out at an overnight arts festival in Trenton killing one and injuring 22 in the early hours of Sunday, Paterson clergy, law enforcement, and community leaders came together to celebrate their efforts, through CeaseFire Paterson to reduce violence in their city.
While other similar organizations have faded away across the state due to lack of funding, local leaders refuse to let the collaborative effort end because, according to Reverend Allan Boyer, “it takes a a village to stop violence.”
The “plain and simple” mission of the group, articulated in the program for the event that welcomed close to 100 guests, including local dignitaries such as Mayor Jane Williams-Warren, Senator Nellie Pou, and Councilwoman-Elect Dr. Lilisa Mimms, is to “stop the next shooting.”
“This initiative is a strategic, data driven, problem-solving approach,” the program reads.
And the effort is working.
In 2018 Paterson has recorded only one homicide, compared to 14 at the same time last year, shared Paterson Police Captain Patrick Murray. Additionally, there has been a 34 percent reduction in non-fatal shootings in the first months of this year he said to applause.
The success, Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said, comes from the shared work of the various stakeholders. “Collaboration unleashes the power of many and allows us to do together what none of us can do alone.”
The success, however, doesn’t mean that law enforcement, including not just the Paterson Police Department, but also the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police, both represented by their highest officials, Prosecutor Camelia Valdes and Colonel Patrick J. Callaghan, are going to reduce their efforts, because, as Murray shared, “one shooting is too many.”
Referring to the one percent of the population that commits acts of violence Murray said that law enforcement, and the community, won’t be deterred in their efforts to make Paterson safer by “those that don’t want to change their lives.”
“We need Paterson CeaseFire,” Pou said. “This is about families working with families, neighborhoods working together.”
Also in attendance was Council President Ruby Cotton who added that she joined the organization immediately upon her election in 2012 because of her belief that elected officials have to help law enforcement.
“It’s about partnership and working together,” Cotton added. “Change is coming to Paterson.”
Listing off gun buyback programs, the number of police officers the Paterson Police Department has committed to the Cease Fire Unit, training that local law enforcement has offered to local clergy, and the accessibility of tips lines to report potential illegal activity, Boyer offered appreciation for the efforts of law enforcement to make positive change, while saying he and his fellow CeaseFire members, along with others in the community, need to stay involved.
“The more we work together, the more we get things done.”