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.
The Trenton Anti-Violence Coalition is lending a hand to help cool things down. Members of the group often walk with students to and from school and even intervene in situations where violence is about to happen.
“Shootings are happening over little things, like someone looking at someone wrong or territorial conflict,” Sumbry said.
Allah disputes the Trenton mayor’s claims that a lack of funding in the city’s Police Department is to blame. He cited a lack of fathers in many young men’s lives and gang members who are now in jail, leaving behind those who want to keep gang legacies alive, as a few reasons for why the violence is happening.
“More police doesn’t solve the issues. Violence is going on with more or less police on the street. There is so much miseducation and unemployment. One of the solutions is–always–cultural, political and spiritual development among our people. Something that has to be done is to have self-esteem and pride. What the teachers, reverends and groups have to do is put our heads together,” he said.
Allah added that by declaring violence a public health emergency, similar to how Hurricane Sandy was handled, it would make way for federal funding that could give money to groups for much-needed programs for youth.