TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman today announced the continuation of State Police deployments in Trenton and other intensive law enforcement efforts launched last month under the TIDE and TAG initiatives, which have ushered in a period of reduced violence in the city – no murders have been recorded in the month of September.
Meanwhile, Hoffman also announced a new long-term, multi-disciplinary strategy, the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy (“TVRS”) – developed in conjunction with key partners in law enforcement, higher education and the community – to target the roots of violence in Trenton by offering social services and training to offenders and other at-risk individuals who are prepared to turn away from a life of crime.
Hoffman made the announcements at Trenton Police Headquarters with Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the State Police, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., First Assistant Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri, Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr., Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, Director Michael Halfacre of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Deputy U.S. Attorney Nelson S. Thayer, Jr., Special Agent in Charge Nicholas J. Kolen of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration South Jersey Region, Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Belsky of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, President R. Barbara Gitenstein and Assistant Provost Patrick Donohue of The College of New Jersey, Assistant Professor Louis Tuthill of Rutgers-Camden, Trenton Detective Alexis Durlacher, and community leaders Darren “Freedom” Green, Jim Carlucci, Andrew Bobbitt, Pastor Julio Guzman and Reverend Darrell Armstrong.
“We’re continuing the initiatives we launched last month because it is clear that the surge in state troopers and other law enforcement in Trenton, and the threat of aggressive prosecutions for those who carry guns, have led to reduced violence, including nearly a full month without a murder,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Moreover, we’re combining our successful short-term strategy with a long-term violence prevention strategy based on proven models that will allow offenders to avoid prison and choose a different path in life by taking advantage of social services and training in the community.”
“The ongoing success of the TIDE/TAG initiative is a testament to how a well-coordinated partnership, involving multiple law enforcement agencies, can lead to an overall reduction in gun-related crime in Trenton,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “By continuing this strategy and enlisting our partners in the community, we have made a meaningful impact on crime reduction in Trenton.”
“It is my firm belief that the message is getting through to the criminal element. Under the TAG initiative, if you carry a gun in public, you are going to jail,” said Prosecutor Bocchini. “The extension of the TIDE deployment will help us continue the momentum of the last six weeks.”
“The TIDE and TAG initiatives have proven to be an effective law enforcement strategy in reducing violence in the City of Trenton. Today we come together to announce a long-term community based initiative that will address violence utilizing evidence-based practices. Working collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies, research partners, and community leaders and having a zero-tolerance approach on violence will have a significant impact on the community,” said Director Rivera.
On August 15, Acting Attorney General Hoffman announced the launch of the TIDE and TAG initiatives. TIDE is an intelligence-driven surge in deployments to suppress violent crime led by the State Police – supplemented by other state, county and federal personnel – working in an integrated fashion with the Trenton Police. TAG is a new arrest and prosecution strategy that brings New Jersey’s tough gun laws to bear on gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders who carry guns in public, requiring that those found in possession of a gun face at least 3 ½ years in state prison without possibility of parole if they plead guilty, and up to 10 years if convicted at trial.
Since TIDE and TAG began, the law enforcement partners have made 549 arrests, seized 20 guns, and identified 18 defendants as eligible for prosecution under the TAG initiative. In addition, approximately 228 “field contacts” have been made between officers and individuals on the streets. Such high-volume contacts with the public discourage offenders from carrying guns in their waistbands.
In the 40 days since the TIDE and TAG initiatives were launched on August 15, there have been three murders in Trenton, a 57-percent reduction from the seven murders recorded in the 40-day period immediately preceding the launch of TIDE and TAG. The last murder in Trenton occurred on August 29. In addition, the number of victims of non-fatal shootings is down significantly. There have been 10 people hit in non-fatal shootings since August 15, a 47-percent reduction from the 19 non-fatal shootings recorded in the 40-day period immediately prior to August 15.
In addition to the announcement about continued TIDE deployments and TAG prosecutions, Hoffman announced that the Attorney General’s Office will be providing $1.1 million over the next three years to fund the new Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy. This strategy, developed through a collaboration involving the Attorney General’s Office, the Trenton Police Department, The College of New Jersey and Rutgers University-Camden, is a multi-disciplinary program that will offer repeat offenders and those at risk of becoming involved in gangs a stark choice: prison or a way out.
The TVRS strategy takes a holistic approach to assisting those individuals and their families by deploying social services and outreach workers into neighborhoods experiencing high levels of criminal activity. The strategy will offer needed counseling, job training, and other aid as an alternative for young people who might otherwise engage in criminal activity, while maintaining a firm message of deterrence through the unified effort of federal, state and local law enforcement for those who refuse to change their behavior.
“TVRS tells chronic offenders, ‘If you continue down this road, we are going to arrest you, bring you up on charges, and put you in prison for a long time,’” said Assistant Professor Louis Tuthill of Rutgers-Camden. “But we don’t want to do that; we want to figure out how to get these individuals to stop engaging in crime. We are going to help them and their families turn their lives around by focusing social services on them, and helping them to get out of the cycle of violence.”
TVRS also will emphasize Law Enforcement through Environmental Design, or “LEED,” a locally-led effort to target-harden areas of high risk through things like improved lighting, strategic patrols, closed-circuit cameras and shot spotters. LEED also utilizes regulatory authority to go after businesses that attract criminal activity and become nuisances in the community. The State Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Trenton Department of Public Works have already commenced such efforts under the TIDE initiative.
A signature element of TVRS is its emphasis on local leadership, with Director Rivera overseeing the overall effort, which will include significant resources and effort by The College of New Jersey, which will be responsible for hiring and managing the social workers, outreach workers, volunteer efforts and research that will be conducted as part of TVRS.
“It is part of the College’s mission to help sustain and advance the communities in which we live —education and service are not mutually exclusive; we can and will help to the best of our ability,” said President R. Barbara Gitenstein of The College of New Jersey.
TVRS is built on evidence-based models such as Ceasefire and Project Safe Neighborhoods that have proven successful in other parts of the country, but has been tailored, based on an analysis of crime trends, to meet the specific needs of Trenton. The program will be run by a full-time coordinator and part-time director who will report to Director Rivera and the Attorney General.
Some of the TVRS services are being put out for competitive bidding that is open to any eligible person or organization. For those who wish to formally apply to be part of TVRS, information is available on The College of New Jersey’s website: http://bids.pages.tcnj.edu/. Proposals are being accepted for the next two weeks.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman commended Assistant Provost Patrick Donohue of The College of New Jersey, Assistant Professor Louis Tuthill of Rutgers-Camden, and Detective Alexis Durlacher of the Trenton Police Department for their leadership in developing the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy.