South Orange/Maplewood CCR hold safety and policing forum – Essex News Daily

SOUTH ORANGE/MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The South Orange–Maplewood Community Coalition on Race hosted a Community Safety and Policing Forum on June 13, bringing together police chiefs from both cities with South Orange presidents Community Police Collaborative and the Community Maplewood Board on Police to discuss local and regional crime and what communities can do to be safe and welcoming.

“This organization was formed by a multiracial group of residents who were concerned about incidents in the community but, more importantly, misconceptions about our two towns that were primarily fear-based,” said the vice president of the CCR Executive Committee, Robert Marchman, at the event. “Recently, we’ve started hearing residents’ concerns about crime in the community, and some of the statements are reminiscent of things we heard 25 years ago that had racial overtones.”

Speaking of crime trends, SOPD leader Ernesto Morillo said there was a bigger problem with the perception of crime than with actual crime. In South Orange, there has been a sharp decline in crime over the past two to three years and a downward trend since 2018.

“We more or less fall in line with the state,” Morillo said of crime statistics. “We’re a bit advanced with the amount of shoplifting we’ve had to deal with, but, other than that, I think it’s more of a perception than anything in terms of an increase in crime. In fact, our numbers show a downward trend.

Maplewood, on the other hand, is seeing an increase in its crime statistics, according to MPD Chief Jimmy DeVaul. The biggest leap has been in motor vehicle theft; Maplewood has seen 53 this year so far, which is already double what the city has seen this time last year. He attributed this to the fact that the geography of Maplewood was different from that of South Orange and that it was easier to find cars to steal in Maplewood.

“Things were different during COVID because everyone was home,” DeVaul said of the burglaries, which have increased in Maplewood. “We are getting more burglaries now because there aren’t as many people at home. When your home has no alarm, it makes it easy prey.

Both Morillo and DeVaul said that one of the reasons the two cities have different crime rates is that while they are similar, they have different borders. Most crime does not occur in the downtown area but along the outskirts, and South Orange and Maplewood have different sized borders near different towns.

“Maplewood shares a much longer border with different cities than we do,” Morillo said. “We are reaching different parts of the communities for smaller points. Most of these types of crimes do not occur in the city center. The larger your borders, the higher your numbers will be. It’s very predictable. »

In another part of the forum, the CCR discussed when residents should and should not call the police if they think they are witnessing a crime. Alexis Karteron, associate professor of law at Rutgers University and director of the Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic, spoke on the subject.

“While the South Orange and Maplewood Police Departments are here to serve us all and keep us safe, they are also not free to act on suspicions that are not based on very clear or articulated facts,” Karteron said at the event. “I think it’s really important that we all keep that in mind, and maybe think about it when we call the police to say when something is wrong. We don’t want to put the police department in the position of relying on hunch.

Karteron said police are limited in what they can do unless they receive a specific description of a suspect, which is why residents should think about racial profiling and why they feel they should call the department.

“When it comes to racial profiling, the police have the right to arrest someone who is suspected of criminal activity, but there must be an accurate description,” Karteron said. “The police are limited in what they can do when it comes to a vague and general description.”

Sara Wakefield, an associate professor of criminal justice at Rutgers, was also a panelist at the forum. Talking about crime rates and why they go up and down over time, she said she expects them to go up after a period of low rates.

“It’s also worth remembering the pandemic and what it’s done to everyone,” Wakefield said. “It has weighed on some populations a lot more than others, so we have a lot of disruption. It’s worth thinking about what crime really looks like. It’s hard to know that because national crime statistics are delayed by about 18 months, so (we) often don’t have an accurate perception of what’s going on.

She added that the safest communities are not those that wait for the police to show up, but those whose residents help each other.

“It’s more than just looking around and calling,” Wakefield said. “It’s paying attention to your environment, but also paying attention to your neighbours. I’m afraid that if we all focus on where our keys are and who surrounds us, we forget that safe communities are those that relate to each other.

Melvin B. Baillie