Police captain addresses local shootings at city council
New Brunswick residents voiced concerns over the New Brunswick Police Department’s response to recent shootings in the city at last night’s City Council meeting.
“We get the same answers until something happens, then all they do is move a few people around,” said James Neal, a New Brunswick resident.
Capt. J. T. Miller of the NBPD said they have increased presence on the Easton Avenue corridor and increased their overall patrols of the city.
Miller said this is because of the large number of calls they have received from that area. He said 13 of the 79 total calls in the past month regarded issues of disorderly conduct.
Joe Catanese, a New Brunswick resident, said he noticed groups of officers frequently stationed in front of Giovanelli’s restaurant, who do not appear to be doing anything in particular.
He said he feels police should disperse crowds that gather on the sidewalks rather than babysit drunks on Easton Avenue.
Neal, a former member of the NBPD, said the concentration of officers in that area results in less patrolling throughout the city.
“On my street there were hundreds of people [who were] loud, keeping me and my wife awake and I didn’t see any police for three hours,” he said.
Miller said the police are doing what they can.
“We send people where we need them,” he said.
Charles Kratovil, a city activist and University alumnus, said he noticed police gathered outside the restaurant, frequently leaning on the hoods of their cars.
He said police were not in proper uniform but instead wore hooded sweatshirts labeled with the emblem police on them.
Miller said this was not the case.
In response to the criticism of police placement, City Council President Robert Recine said police are not only deployed to that area.
“To my understanding, they aren’t just in front of Giovanelli’s,” he said.
He said the city has increased its patrols covering all of Easton Avenue.
Assistant City Attorney T.K. Shamy said he has met with owners of restaurants and businesses on Easton Avenue and all have voiced approval of the new measures.
“They were all willing and able to work with us and cooperate,” he said.
While owners are responsible for their patrons and the areas in front of their shops, Shamy said the overwhelming majority requested more police in the area.
Catanese said recent police efforts seemed temporary and more permanent solutions are needed.
“When those six officers [in front of Giovanelli’s] need to respond to somewhere else, that Band-Aid gets removed,” he said.
New Brunswick resident Tormel Pittman asked if cameras are in use to combat violence in the area.
Miller said there are cameras around the area, but would not reveal their locations.
Kratovil asked how the department responded to the recent shooting on Robinson Street in the fifth ward.
There was no specific response to the incident because of the shooting’s isolated nature, Miller said, but the investigation is ongoing.
“It was not random. The suspect had a mission,” he said. “We can’t stop somebody with that mindset.”
City shootings were not the only issue discussed at the meeting. Cedric Goodman, a New Brunswick resident brought up a proposal to rename George Street.
“Three years ago I proposed renaming the street after Martin Luther King Jr., but I guess that was shelved,” he said.
Goodman said he did not understand why money is being spent to build a statue of Colonel Neilson, a military figure, instead of projects that remember figures of peace and progress.
Recine said the statue project is a private initiative, while naming George Street is a public matter, which the council could revisit.