PATERSON, NJ - A spate of recent violent incidents, as well as other longstanding quality of life concerns, were the topics of conversation at a special community meeting hosted by 6th Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz on Thursday.

Joining Abdelaziz for the more than 90 minute session were Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale, Police Chief Troy Oswald, and Passaic County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Daryl Walton, as well as more than three dozen residents.

Among the concerns of the admittedly frustrated residents were muggings, loud music, upkeep of storefronts and sidewalks, being confronted by panhandlers while sitting in cars attempting to make transactions at neighborhood banks, traffic conditions, and an increasing issue with homelessness.

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In attendance were a number of residents who reside at the nearby senior citizen complex, Governor Paterson Towers, including Martha Arencibia and Bill Priestly,  both of whom previously advocated against a measure to make part of 21st Avenue a one-way

Besides several recent car wrecks, Priestly reported that within a 4-day span just weeks ago a 9-year old girl and a 42-year-old woman were both hit by vehicles on 20th Avenue. The addition of motorcycle patrols by the Paterson Police Department during times of heavy traffic, Priestly, who also expressed his concerns about homeless people sleeping in the lobby of the Wells Fargo Bank, believes, would help alleviate the situation.   

Thanking the residents for attending Speziale offered that both he and Oswald would attend similar gathering of concerned residents “anytime, anywhere,” because they work.  

“At a recent meeting someone told us there were problems at 284 Trenton Avenue,” Speziale stated.  “We looked into it. We set up surveillance and made arrests,” he said referring to the Thursday arrests of two Paterson residents on charges of marijuana possession. 

Speziale then spent time discussing the difficulty “the mass exodus of police officers due to retirement,” the Paterson Police Department is currently facing. While the Sayegh Administration recently announced that 16 new cadets would enter the Bergen County Police Academy, those hires, he said, were countered by 20 retirements.  

According to Speziale the Paterson Police Department’s ranks currently stands at 390 officers, well below the 520 maximum allowable in the table of organization. Despite the reduction in ranks, a phenomenon that Oswald said happens about every 20 years, Speziale credited his officers saying that “they are a young force and start out making $35,000 a year.”  

Speziale shared with the residents that there is a plan in place for an “infusion of 100 new officers,” later this year. 

A new Quality of Life patrol is also paying dividends, Speziale said, leading to the issuance of over 1,000 arrests and several arrests made. The career law enforcement professional asked those in attendance to only call in issues if they are directly affected, “not if they are driving around the community and hear loud music,” as that only serves to wear out officers and spread resources thin.

Saying that at least once a week he drives around the 6th Ward until 3:00 a.m. to observe and report possible illegal activity Abdelaziz offered his own cell number, with Oswald saying residents should get in touch with their council representative directly if they make a call to police and don’t get a response within 40 minutes.  

Updating antiquated technology by installing a new communications system that will allow for the Paterson Police Department and Paterson Fire Department to operate from under one roof, including a system that will track the movements and whereabouts of every emergency vehicle will also improve service, Speziale said, as will a continued collaboration with county law enforcement. 

If the goal of the meeting was to provide results that came at the end when Abdelaziz making a direct request to, and receiving approval from, Oswald for walking patrols to be added along the 21st Avenue corridor at night. 

Telling TAPinto Paterson that the meeting “wasn’t the end of anything, but rather another start at continually communicating directly with residents,” Abdelaziz said that “consistent community involvement has made the 6th Ward our strongest ward, and is something that is going to remain a staple of our efforts to grow and improve.”

Quality of life complaints can be reported to the Paterson Police Department at 973-321-1111.   

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