Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bending the law

It's shaping up to be a tough week for the stand up guy who leads the City of Trenton Police Department.

The front page of this morning's Trentonian touts a story about how the crime reports are tweaked and sanitized before being provided for public consumption (and at that, they are rarely made easily available to the general public).

It will be interesting to watch how City Hall and Police HQ try to spin this one. Hopefully they are more successful than Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore was at hiding the sizable budget shortfall in Mercer County's largest municipality (you know, "Clean, Safe Hamilton").

There are those in the community who have for years begged, bargained and pleaded for the regular release and publication of the crime reports to the public. Why?

For one, so that the residents of any given neighborhood can see if what they are experiencing is actually showing up in the reports. That way all parties can be kept honest about what is reported and how large or small the crime problem actually is. This is not an unheard of approach. And really, how hard would it be to accomplish since the crimes are mapped for the weekly comstat meetings anyway?

Additionally, regular disclosure of criminal activity will reduce the suspicion that the authorities are holding back or hiding information.

But crime reporting isn't the only issue facing Mr. Santiago this week.

The question of his residency continues to dog the police director. In today's Times, Mayor Palmer states that he has granted Mr. Santiago a waiver of the residency rule.

There's only one small problem: there doesn't appear to be any clause in the City Ordinance granting the Mayor or anyone else the power to waive residency once the appointee has accepted the position.

Therein lies the basis of Frank Weeden's complaint.

Hopefully, these issues will not go away between now and the Police Director's scheduled appearance before City Council at the end of the month.

And, if you only attend one council meeting this year, make it that one.

Make the Director answer directly to the questions about crime reporting and residency.

You've got nothing to lose, the TV writers are on strike anyway.

1 comment:

Chrissy said...

Great post!

What's particularly frustrating about the lack of disclosure about criminal activity is that it marginalizes the good, decent citizens of Trenton. Dispatch, as most of us know, isn't always particularly helpful when we call to report a problem, which only exacerbates the problem.

It is maddening to be ignored, and I think the powers-that-be may have been hoping for that; the citizens begin to have a "why bother?" mentality, which results in fewer reported crimes, thus feeding the ridiculous idea that "crime is down."

Crime isn't down, and we know that. And we're willing to deal with it; we're adults, and we're resourceful. Sometimes just a bit of validation -- knowing that someone is listening to us -- works wonders. Validation builds mutual trust and respect. With all of the information, citizens can work more productively with police, and can also brainstorm to find civic, non-police solutions to certain types of crimes.