GUSCIORA AND WATSON COLEMAN WORRY ABOUT TRENTON PUBLIC SAFETY; SAY PUBLIC SAFETY AID VETOED BY CHRISTIE COULD HAVE CUSHIONED THE BLOW FROM LAYOFFS

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora and Bonnie Watson Coleman (both Mercer) today expressed concern about the impact a 40 percent reduction in the Trenton Police force will have on public safety, which they said could have been reduced if Gov. Christie had not eliminated municipal public safety aid from the state budget.

The governor line-item vetoed $50 million for Municipal Public Safety Aid, which would have given the City of Trenton $1.5 million and prevented almost a quarter of the layoffs.

“The city has seen an increase in crime, and an unemployment rate that is more than double the state’s average. This is a recipe for disaster,” said Bonnie Watson Coleman. “Trenton’s police force is now expected to provide for the safety of the 80,000 plus residents who live in Trenton, as well as the 30,000 state workers who commute here on a daily basis, with 108 less officers. The municipal public safety aid would not have prevented the layoffs, but would have saved some jobs and kept more officers on the streets. But thanks to Gov. Christie, Trenton will once again have to do with less. The fact that it’s public safety is alarming.”

“Just yesterday a young man was gunned down in the middle of the day in a relatively quiet neighborhood in Trenton. These layoffs not only affect those who have received a pink slip, but the thousands of people who live and work in the city,” said Gusciora. “The city could have saved some of these jobs with the $1.5 million it would have received in municipal public safety aid, but the governor took that safety net away when he vetoed the aid. I didn’t realize when the governor made shared sacrifices his mantra, he was also referring to public safety.”

Under the city’s layoff plan, 108 police officers and 42 city employees in various city departments are being laid off. The layoffs are estimated to save the city $5.3 million, and help bridge an $8.4 million gap in the city’s budget.

Meanwhile, crime in Trenton has seen an increase. As of June 2011, the number of assaults with guns in Trenton was 66.7 percent higher than they were by June of 2010. The number of homicides increased by 250 percent during this period. There were 9 homicides between January and June of this year, compared to two during the same period last year. Robberies with firearms and property crimes increased by 20 percent.

“The fact remains that Trenton is our state capital with hundreds of tax exempt properties, many of which are state government properties,” concluded Gusciora. “I call on the Governor to recognize the burdens such properties have on the city and unless he cannot help Trenton restore 108 cops to their command, he should provide supplemental coverage through the State Police. The citizens of Trenton deserve nothing less.”