TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on today’s hearing of the FY 2009 Department of Law and Public Safety Budget:
“In our State’s urban centers, local law enforcement is struggling to keep up pace with the rate of violent crime being perpetrated by individuals and gangs. Gangs, guns and drugs rule the streets, and nearly every major prosecution in our urban courtrooms can be linked back to one of those three factors. Our cities are facing an epidemic of drug- and gang-related crime, and need State support to make a difference in the lives of local residents.
“While New Jersey is facing one of the worst budget crises in its history, we need to seek out creative solutions and partnerships to cut into urban crime rates. Programs like the pilot gun court initiative, which fast-tracks gun-related criminal proceedings, and the targeted outreach program to prevent kids from joining gangs, make the most of our State’s public safety investments and engage community groups to work for the good of the community. Particularly at a time when funding is at a premium, we need to maximize the results we get from every dollar we spend to help fight crime in the most dangerous communities in New Jersey.
“The State must also focus appropriate resources in the juvenile justice programs, to give kids an alternative to gang lifestyle and make a difference in their lives before it’s too late. I am encouraged by the new leadership in the Juvenile Justice Commission, and I hope Director (Veleria) Lawson will do everything in her power to achieve positive outcomes for the young people under the Commission’s supervision.
“If we’re going to have a lasting affect on our State’s urban communities, we need to rehabilitate juvenile offenders early, and we need to seek outside-the-box solutions to stretch our State’s law enforcement resources. Even in difficult economic times, we cannot turn our backs to the plight of law-abiding citizens who have to live in fear in crime-infested neighborhoods. Working in cooperation with community groups, education professionals and the law enforcement community, we can ensure a brighter tomorrow for urban New Jersey.”