Crime rates and the condition of our neighborhoods go hand-in-hand. Vacant buildings and empty lots create an atmosphere that gives way to drug use, dumping, and violence in our communities. As a city, we can better coordinate our efforts to provide housing stability, make our code enforcement system more responsive, hold absentee landlords accountable, and better maintain vacant lots.
Foster Housing Stability
It is no coincidence that neighborhoods with the most violent crime also have the highest vacancy rates and unemployment rates. The conditions in these communities are the outcome of decades of disinvestment and redlining by the federal government. If we genuinely care about reducing violent crime, we must commit to investing in these communities.
As Councilman, I will support and propose that the City redirect our community and economic development tools toward the most vulnerable and at-risk neighborhoods. I will support community anchors — whether public schools, recreation centers, libraries, or other neighborhood assets — with the funding they need to continue to serve Trenton residents. Finally, I will ensure any housing tax credits and subsidies are only approved when they make our city more equitable. By targeting our resources, we can bring stability, prosperity, and safety to Trenton communities.
Hold Absentee Landlords Accountable
There are over 3,000 vacant properties in Trenton. On some blocks, including my own, the majority of properties are uninhabited. Absentee landlords own many of these properties in other jurisdictions, states, and even countries. We must be vigilant as a city about holding absentee landlords accountable for neglect in our communities.
I will introduce legislation requiring owners of vacant buildings and homes to install working doors and windows to their structures to be adequately secured. This approach has been practical in cities like Philadelphia. As Councilman, I will support and propose our housing inspectors to proactively identify blighted properties in neighborhoods most plagued by violence and step up enforcement of code and safety violations that occur in connection to vacant properties. We have to hold absentee property owners to a higher standard.
TCTV Program (CCTV)
I would propose that the City create a program that replicates Washington D.C.'s and call it TCTV. It would allow residents to register their home security cameras with the Trenton Police Department system so that video evidence can be located quickly when a crime occurs. As Councilman, I will propose a rebate program to expand the number of security cameras available to residents and businesses who agree to register them with the system. No one will be forced to share any video captured by their device, but expanding the number of home security devices registered with the TCTV would help our police officers more efficiently investigate crimes when they occur. Residents receiving government assistance will have the opportunity to have this resource installed free of charge. Studies have shown that video surveillance of homes and businesses reduce crime. Trenton would provide a rebate to residents and businesses who buy a doorbell security camera like the Amazon Ring or Google Nest. This is how we build more strong, safer communities.
The struggle for public safety is multifaceted but must begin with addressing the record levels of gun violence in our communities. As Councilman, my most urgent charge will be removing guns and repeat violent offenders from the streets. Here's how that will happen with me as Councilman:
Establish a Group Violence Reduction Strategy
In our hardest-hit neighborhoods, residents should not feel terrorized by what police term "violent criminal networks," which seemingly occupy communities. Under my direct leadership, we will identify violent criminal networks and remove them from our neighborhoods through consistent, targeted pressure, and coordinated information sharing with our law enforcement agencies. Cities that have implemented a group violence reduction strategy have seen significant gun violence reductions.
Target Gun Traffickers and Straw Purchasers
If we aim to reduce gun violence in Trenton, we must stop the flow of illegal guns into our communities. As Councilman, I will support unlawful gun traffickers' target and straw purchasers-they funnel unlawful firearms into the city. By establishing partnerships between the Trenton Police Department, our neighboring jurisdictions, and other federal agencies like the ATF and FBI will ensure people who illegally bring guns into our city are better held accountable.
Track Illegal Guns and Ammunition
We must get illegal guns off the streets through enforcement and prosecution. But if we don't know who is making illegal guns and ammunition available on our roads, we will not solve this problem. As Councilman, I will support increasing our commitment to tracking firearms and ammunition used in crimes to their origin. I will also foster our relationships with state, regional, and federal law enforcement partners.
Conviction Assurance: Track Gun Case Outcomes
When gun cases get dropped because of unconstitutional policing or investigative practices, people who committed violent crimes can end up back on the streets. As Councilman, I will propose a data-driven and analytical approach to criminal justice issues. If unconstitutional policing or bad investigative work leads to dropped cases, we should know and be prepared to take action to confront it. I will also increase funding to implement a crime analyst program with the State's Attorney's Office to review all crime and violent repeat offenders cases. This data will improve our case preparation to ensure cases have a higher probability of being successfully prosecuted and appropriately sentenced.
Additionally, I will support the Trenton Police Department's requirement to step up training on constitutional search-and-seizure practices, interrogation, and report writing so that no case is dropped because a police officer failed to act under the law.
Address Intimate Partner Violence
To reduce violent crime, we must understand the role that intimate partner violence plays. Domestic violence accounts for 21% of all violent crime, with most incidents involving private partners. When guns are present in these situations, there is a 500% greater chance that the event turns deadly. As a city, we have to create a safety net for survivors in collaboration with the prosecution, rehabilitation, and enforcement. As Councilman, I will work with service providers, public health institutions, the Trenton Police Department's Sheriff's Office, and State's Attorney's Office to address intimate partner violence sensitively. My team and I will work in partnership with community partners and push service providers to establish the Capital City Area Family Justice Center to bring providers, city agencies, and law enforcement officials under one roof. This center would offer comprehensive services from immigration advice to resources for survivors.
By laying a solid foundation for Trenton's young people through meaningful opportunities and diversion, we can make our young people feel valued and better supported for success. There is no substitute for entirely investing in the education of our children. Historically, Trenton has not prioritized education funding and hadn't utilized what was passed in the most effective ways to benefit students.
Provide Quality Mentorship to Our Young People
Mentoring a young person has a positive impact on their life. Young people with mentors are less likely than their peers to engage in dangerous behavior. They are also more likely to enroll in college and hold leadership positions. I've been a mentor and the beneficiary of mentorship. I know the difference it can make in a young person's life.
Despite the evidence about mentoring's impact, hundreds of young Trentonians are on a list and just waiting for someone to mentor them. As Councilman, I will work with fellow councilmembers and the Mayor to focus on getting quality mentors for young people in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence. I will also ensure organizations providing mentorship services have the support and funding they need.
Build a Public Safety Cadet-Community Policing Program
In Trenton, we have high school students interested in public safety careers with no clear pathway to those careers. Our police department needs more homegrown recruits who understand our city's challenges. As Councilman, I will support and lead the expansion of cadet programs in our public safety agencies by allocating the funding to hire local high school graduates each year. I will develop a plan with our schools to ensure these students can set out on these careers while completing their schooling. Trenton students who express an interest in public safety should have a direct pathway to those careers.
Adopting restorative justice approaches in our schools will reduce recidivism and promote healing in communities most impacted by crime and violence cycles. As Councilman, I will support the implementation of restorative justice circles in our public schools because our youth deserve second chances and the opportunity to build conflict resolution skills. Therapeutic justice programs have already shown promise in schools in inner urban areas because they divert our young people from formal disciplinary action and the juvenile justice system. Therapeutic Justice programs improve communication and conflict resolution skills to foster greater understanding, rather than punishment or a disciplinary record. These highly-structured and mediated discussions between parties can facilitate understanding and give way to a path forward.
Exposure to trauma harms the developmental growth of young people. When left unaddressed, this exposure increases the likelihood that our youth will become victims or perpetrators of violence. With more than half of Trenton's youth impacted, addressing trauma must be a critical component of any crime reduction strategy. Trauma is also an issue of equity. It disproportionately affects Trenton's Black communities, which bear the brunt of a long history of systemic racism, housing segregation, and economic discrimination. Today's history is reflected in high rates of poverty, violence, and associated trauma in Black and Brown communities.
As Councilman, I will support a focused expansion of trauma-responsive practices that starts in our schools and expands to all agencies and organizations that come in contact with our youth. Massachusetts provides a blueprint for a path forward, where all schools were required to develop action plans for creating safe and supportive environments.
Trauma Response Teams: Respond to Incidents As They Occur
One of the most untold stories in our City's struggle with crime is the trauma our residents, especially our young people, experience and internalize as they routinely see violence occur around them-this should not be the "new normal" in Trenton. Under my leadership, a trauma team will respond to each shooting and homicide to triage gun violence survivors, their families, and their communities.
These trauma response teams will consist of mental health professionals, social workers, community-based organizations, local clergy, local mediators, and victim advocates. They will provide immediate trauma support, coordinate community vigils and safety walks, and connect victims with city resources. Police will share information with these professionals to ensure those impacted receive continuing support and constant communication where appropriate. These teams will be staffed by the Health Department employees and assigned to work in each of the City's four wards.
Promote Trauma-Responsive Services Early
Exposure to trauma is linked to several of the leading causes of death and criminal activity, violence, and reduced academic achievement. However, it doesn't have to be. Early intervention is key to mitigating the impact of trauma. As Councilman, I will promote trauma-responsive mental health services and intervention efforts in our City. This can range from mental health and trauma awareness campaigns across Trenton to identifying and coordinating the work of agencies, institutions, and organizations that offer mental health and trauma-responsive services to improve access to care.