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Introduced in Response to Unprecedented Surge in Violence in Urban Areas


TRENTON – In response to an unprecedented surge in violence in New Jersey’s cities last year, Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Shirley K. Turner sponsored a measure to create a commission to study the sources and causes of urban violence and to recommend to the Governor and Legislature methods to address them. The bill, to create the New Jersey Commission on Urban Violence, was approved today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.


“New Jersey’s urban areas experienced an unprecedented surge in violence last year, with murders taking place in broad daylight and innocent children being caught in the crossfire of gun battles. While crimes rates in some cities appear to have dipped, there is still far too much violent crime occurring in our communities. Children are still falling victim to the bloodshed that is taking place. In recent days, a 15-month-old child was shot in Irvington when a stray bullet entered her parents’ bedroom,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex), who also serves as Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. “We have to put a stop to the senseless violence that is being carried out in our neighborhoods. That means not only combating crime with boots on the ground but also addressing the underlying social and economic problems that are at the core of this epidemic.”


“Reports that violent crime is down in cities like Trenton and Newark are encouraging, but we cannot allow these statistics to make us complacent. Crime continues to be carried out in communities across the state every day, and unless we get to the root of the problems that fuel crime in our urban areas we will not see a successful reduction in incidents over the long term,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer and Hunterdon). “This commission will bring together representatives of local government, law enforcement, clergy and other groups to analyze the issues that are contributing to the cycle of violent crime and death in our communities and make recommendations for addressing them in a meaningful way.”


An analysis by The Star-Ledger found that New Jersey’s homicides reached a seven-year high in 2013, driven by the violence in the cities of Trenton and Newark. Newark recorded 111 homicides last year and Trenton saw 37, according to the report. Recent reports indicate that violent crime is down in Newark and Trenton this year. Trenton saw its last homicide in July and homicides are down by more than 10 percent from over a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reported.


The legislators’ bill (SJR-25) would establish the “New Jersey State Commission on Urban Violence” to study the sources and causes of violence in New Jersey. The 40-member commission would consist of representatives from a broad spectrum of state and local officers and officials, law enforcement, professional organizations, academics, labor, and faith-based and church-centered associations. It would file two interim reports with the Governor and the Legislature to details its process – at the sixth and twelfth month following its organization – and a final report within 18 months.


Modeled after the charge given to the so-called Kerner Commission, formed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 to study the sources and causes of the violence and disorder that ravaged America’s cities, including Newark, the panel will assess the invasive impact the violence is having on individuals, families and communities, and recommend action to address and alleviate the sources and causes.


The bill was approved by a vote of 5-0.  It next heads to the full Senate for a vote.