Rev. Joseph Ravenell, pastor of Samaritan Baptist Church, agrees. “They don’t seem fazed. They’re not afraid,” he said.
Ravenell is no stranger to the violence in the city either. One of his parishioners was struck by a bullet in front of his church during a drive-by in October. Ravenell said that the criminals in the area aren’t concerned about getting caught by the police either.
President of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, George Dzurkoc expressed that with the absent police force, criminals think they can just “run amok.”
Additionally, since the massive cut, there’s been nothing but an increase in violent crimes. According to the police department, they responded to 73 shootings in 2009 and it dropped to 71 in 2010. But after the force was cut in 2011, the number nearly doubled to 134 and increased again to 167 last year. By the end of June this year Trenton had already experienced 94 shootings.
Dzurkoc also points out that there’s a whole other breed of criminals that he didn’t see when he served in the street unit from 1992 to 2000. The “community gun” is practically non-existent now. Where they once “were scared to death to carry guns,” now every criminal on the street carries a gun in his waistband.
Standing in front of the city’s Battle Monument, members of the Concerned Pastors of Trenton and Greater Vicinity, NACCP and Trenton City Council held a protest against the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer.
Last week, the 17-year-old Florida teenager’s assailant, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty, which has caused a nationwide movement with public demonstrations.
“Trenton has been silent too long. The pastors, the politicians, and the residents have all been silent.” Rev. Mark Broach of Trenton Deliverance Center, the president of the Concerned Pastors and pastor of Trenton Deliverance Center, said as he spoke in front of approximately 100 or more protestors.
In connection to Martin’s slaying, Trenton residents called for curtailment of the daily violence in the city.
State Senator Shirley K. Turner said, “It was fitting that we would have this protest at the Battle Monument. We have a battle for Trenton to save our young people from dying daily due to gun violence. Trayvon was 17, but over the last few years, the city of Trenton has lost over nine teenagers due to gun violence.”
The Battle Monument, at the crossroads of Brunswick, Broad, Pennington, Princeton and Warren commemorates George Washington’s defeat of the Hessians Dec. 25, 1776, after crossing the Delaware and marks the spot where he placed his artillery pointing down at the enemy’s barracks.
Turner said that she will be meeting with officials from the federal government in the coming weeks to discuss the city’s problems.
“This was a signal sent to this country. These are not bad black males,” North Ward Councilwoman Marge Caldwell Wilson said, “We have to come together as a community. We have to stop hiding behind our closed doors.”
The city has 21 homicides and has seen its share of death.
City activist Darren “Freedom” Green said he is tired of attending funerals.“Death causes our physical demise,” he said. “We need to address our local enigma of fragmented families, drug corners, and failing schools.
|From Washington Crossing the Delaware to a symbolic 'shoe' display on the capitol building steps representing those blacks gunned down by black gun violence in Trenton|
Violence in Trenton, N.J., is a kettle that has boiled over, according to those in the community. Recently, a man was shot in the leg after being robbed, and in another incident earlier this month, four people were injured during a shooting. The chaos now has those in the community looking for answers.
On Monday, community members gathered at the Statehouse in New Jersey, demanding that politicians take a firmer hand to solve the problem. About 75 people attended the rally.
While Trenton Mayor Tony Mack blames a lack of funding in the Police Department, those on the ground say it's bigger than that. The group had a list of demands to cut down on the violence, including treating the issue as a public health emergency, better funding to improve conditions at Trenton Central High School, better enforcement of curfew for minors and implementing the Amistad Commission, which would put more Black history in school curriculum.
Leaders from the Trenton Anti-Violence Coalition, Divine Allah and Aula Maarufu Sumbry, recently spoke to the AmNews about how bad thing are in Trenton and what needs to be done to stop it.
"This violence is coming out of a situation in which a small minority of the population feels helpless, hopeless and frustrated," Sumbry said. "They feel that they don't have any options. Nobody wants to go to the police--even witnesses. There is no confidence in the Police Department as a result of the bad relationship between police and Black community."
Sumbry added that the lack of after-school programs and the condition of the high school are also playing a role. Shootings happen so often in Trenton that some are not even reported because they are not deemed newsworthy.
"I believe that Trenton is a kettle of toxic soup that has been boiling, and now it has reached the boiling point--and even if you bring the National Guard here, it's not going to change the conditions the generate these shooters," Sumbry said.
Inside Italian Peoples Bakery on Butler Street this afternoon, the calm order of business as usual had returned.
A man walked to the deli counter to order a turkey and provolone hoagie. Ten cannolis were being filled to satisfy an order. Lottery tickets were bought.
It was a marked change from the day before, when a city man was shot numerous times and killed on the sidewalk in front of the landmark bakery’s front door at lunchtime. The slaying, which set an unwelcome record for the city, came after two men had chased the 26-year-old victim on foot from Hamilton Avenue, firing as they ran.
Carmen Guagliardo, the bakery’s owner, was back at work again today, presiding over the serving of customers. He said the brutal killing hasn’t changed how the business relates to the Chambersburg neighborhood.
“Gang members are problems,” he said. “Neighbors and employees, that’s who we serve.”
Guagliardo talked about the violence in a matter-of-fact way, speculating that people in Chambersburg have become too accustomed to the city’s violence.
“They are numb to this,” he said.
The midday fatal shooting in front of the bakery left Brandon Nance dead and set 32 homicides as the new benchmark for yearly slayings. Unfortunately, the mark comes with time to spare. Four full months of the year remain before the calendar turns over.
At-large Councilman Alex Bethea has been thinking of those who have died so far this year, and of all the family members and loved ones left behind in the tragic wake of shootings and killings.
“I pray that God will give us a little more wisdom on how to handle this situation,” Bethea said. “It certainly has been a challenging one.”
In the wake of all the upheaval of 2005, organizations like Fathers and Men United for a Better Trenton came together. Fathers and Men attempts to mentor young men and keep them from harming others, but this year has seen the killing continue despite their efforts.
“Fathers and Men is saddened from the deepness of their heart we have come to this point,” said Jason Rogers, Fathers and Men president, as he loaded up food and gifts for the group’s community picnic in Cadwalader Park tomorrow.
“We hope this killing will bring people together, from the community all the way up to the governor’s house,” Rogers said.
“People are fearful,” said George Muschal, the city council president and former Trenton police officer, who sees businesses and residents moving out of the city because of the increasing violence.
Mandi Perlmutter and Tony Crawford have never met.
Perlmutter is a white suburbanite with three young children who began to fight for gun control with Moms Demand Action following the mass killing at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., late last year.
Yesterday morning, she was at the Statehouse to urge Gov. Chris Christie to sign a bill that would establish an electronic database of ammunition sales and require that firearms purchaser information be embedded on driver’s licenses or ID cards.
“I don’t believe there’s anything political about the question of gun violence,” she said.
Crawford is a black man who lives in the ‘hood, Trenton’s West Ward on Stuyvesant Avenue. He’s a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan but has seen the streets near his home turn into a shooting gallery that gets worse each year.
“These kids, a gun is like a million-dollar toy to them,” he said. “They just have to use it.”
Crawford spent a portion of his afternoon yesterday surveying the latest crime scene just yards from his home. A deli on Stuyvesant Avenue had been shot up by gunmen, leaving one man wounded in the foot. A stop sign at the corner of Stuyvesant and Christoph Avenue already bore two bullet holes from someone’s target practice.
While taking in the shooting scene, Crawford was also waiting for his children’s bus to bring them home from camp.
Both Perlmutter and Crawford want safe streets where their children can play without fear of being gunned down. Yet they see the gun debate and its relationship to Trenton’s streets differently based on where they come from and who they are.
On the Statehouse steps, Perlmutter’s Moms Against Action and several other gun control groups lined up 180 pairs of empty shoes, which they called a “Silent March” of victims who have fallen to gun violence in New Jersey since the Newtown shooting. In Trenton alone, there have been 22 gun-related deaths since last December — the majority of the city’s 27 homicides in 2013.