A City's Cry for Help

Can Trenton Obliterate Gun Violence?

Trentonians desire the eradication of gun violence in their city. Statistics and stories that highlight the disregard for life are populating headlines. A cohesive response from the city’s leadership that discovers and addresses the issues is needed to reform Trenton, New Jersey.

The Statistics:

The year 2020 holds the record number of homicides in Trenton. The state’s capital had 40 homicides in total, which is a 167% increase from 2019. In 2021, shootings were up 110% in June and 83% in July compared to the previous periods of this year.

Horrific Stories:

Most recently, On September 25, 15 year old Shemiah Davis, was shot and killed on Bellevue Avenue. At the same scene, a 19-year-old female was shot multiple times and remains hospitalized in critical condition, along with a 17-year-old male who was shot in the leg. Trenton Councilman, George Muschal, told Fox 29 that the cause was “retaliation” and they were not the intended targets. The victims were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Majority of the victims are under the age of 30, making them either Millennials or Gen Zers. These victims were not able to experience even half of what life could have offered them. Children are being stripped from the earth due to petty street violence. A quick response from officials to practically address the heart of the issue is necessary to keep the city under control.

Why the Rise:

Getting to the root of gun violence is tricky, especially following a year that was hijacked by COVID-19. There is no one specific “blame”. However, there are many factors- mental, emotional, social, political- that can lead an individual to the point of pulling a trigger with the intent of taking another human being’s life. On the surface, gang violence is usually blamed because those affiliate groups seek revenge from other affiliate groups. As stated earlier, “revenge” has been the contributor to the heightened gun violence in the city. These retaliations create a never-ending cycle of death because revenge does not end until everyone involved or connected to the group is dead. The question to ask is, why join a gang or participate in criminal activity, to begin with? Those answers get to the core of the issue. Historically, individuals are inclined to join gangs for resources and community. The year 2020 was one in which individuals already living in impoverished areas, such as Trenton, were in desperate need of resources and community.

At this point, residents are playing a waiting game for officials to announce an official plan to combat gun violence in the city. There are grassroots organizations, such as Stop The Violence, using their community influence to eradicate the issue, but there are only so many resources available to nonprofits, which were derived from the political crisis of COVID. Initiatives geared towards strategically aiding those factors have led to a hope to decrease gun violence.

Solutions and Progress:

Trentonians demand action from their leadership. Councilwoman Robin Vaughn is very vocal about her disdain towards the Trenton leadership. She tweeted,

“No confidence in Mayor W. Reed Gusciora, City of Trenton. He must resign immediately. I will introduce a resolution to City Council demanding that he does so. #ZeroConfidence#Scandalist.”

This tweet was posted two days after Mayor Reed’s acting Police Chief, Steve Wilson, rolled out a New Daytime Task Force. The force is said to focus on “aggressive panhandling, prostitution, speeding, illegal dumping and open-air drug dealing,” but nothing mentioning new gun violence prevention. There was a statement on continuing operations as per usual, because they were successful, even though there has been an increased number of killings.

At this point, residents are playing a waiting game for officials to announce an official plan to combat gun violence in the city. There are grassroots organizations, such as Stop The Violence, using their community influence to eradicate the issue, but there are only so many resources available to nonprofits.

A Beacon of Hope

Camden, New Jersey is an example of a city taking control of its gun violence issues. Camden’s 2020 shooting statistics were part of an ongoing decline that started after the city endured a 67-homicide record in 2012. Gun killings also went down in 2020 for the city.

Camden Police Department spokesperson, Dan Keashen, stated that the city’s built bonds between its residents and cops through activities like food distribution, events, and barbecues. “The biggest asset we have in fighting crime is the community itself,” he explained. “It’s more than just community policing. It’s about unity policing.”

The police department discovered the root of their city’s gun violence issue and addressed that one arena through initiatives. As the spokesperson expressed, the decline was happening since 2012, so this was not an overnight process.

This is an opportune time for Trenton's leadership to shape the future of the city. Their response now will determine the direction in which the city is headed.

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