TAPinto Paterson has invited all candidates for Mayor and City Council to offer statements on several key issues related to the future of Paterson. These submissions will be run in their entirety and not edited in any way.

Following are teacher, community activist, and council hopeful, Zellie Thomas' views on crime and safety

A parent of one of my former students would line their bathtub with blankets for their son to sleep at night. He had his own room and his own bed, but the walls to his room also had bullet holes. Sadly, his mother thought a bathtub was a safer place for him to sleep.

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In 2017, Paterson had 78 shootings in which 80 were wounded and 17 were killed.

Children need to be alive to go to school. Young adults need to be out of jail to go to work. In order to create a safe and sustainable community where residents can thrive, we need to forego past practices and approaches in favor of better ways that repair individuals and communities, instead of feeding into a vicious cycle of violence and re-incarceration.

We can’t arrest our way out of this situation. Being “tough on crime”  traps many of our men and women into a cycle of re-incarceration. Instead of re-entering the community rehabilitated, folks are marked with a giant scarlet letter denying them access to living wage jobs to sustain themselves and their families.

The safest communities don't have more cops; they have more resources. Residents of safe communities have access to living wage jobs, quality health care, affordable homes and high quality education. You don't fight crime by hiring more police officers. You fight crime by ending poverty.

Our approach is not to achieve public safety through mass incarceration, but by providing resources to our residents, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable.


-Seek additional funding for CeaseFire focused on providing pathways to a better life for the small percentage of individuals most at risk of perpetuating crime or violence.

-Partner and seek funding for anti-violence community groups to act as first responders to mediate and de-escalate situations in the community.

-Implementation of a strong, independent civilian complaint review board that is able to be transparent when investigating police abuses and hold law enforcement accountable.


We all deserve to live in safe and thriving communities, regardless of our race, creed, gender or zip code. Safety doesn’t come with more police or foot patrols. You’re still not safe from eviction. You’re still not safe from foreclosure. You’re still not safe from losing your job.

Safety comes from equal access to resources and opportunities. My objective as an educator, community organizer, and councilman is to facilitate the growth of strong, vibrant, participatory communities through advocacy, legislation, and collaboration with the people of Paterson.

Let’s work together to finally solve the issues plaguing our city.

Vote 1B on May 8th.

Together We Are Stronger,

Zellie Thomas


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