PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A recent uptick in violent crime in one New Jersey community could be connected to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the city.
Officials there hope a new program will target both issues and keep residents safe, reports CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.
In a slew of a few weeks, two people have been killed in Paterson. Last week, a 43-year-old Door Dash Delivery driver was shot and killed. That same weekend, a 13-year-old was also found unresponsive. On Monday, three 14-year-olds were shot.
“There are a lot of issues here in Paterson,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh.
The mayor says the city faces many unique challenges including homelessness, an opioid epidemic and rising crime.
“You can’t just police your problems away,” he said. “You have to fix them.”
On Wednesday, Sayegh and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced grant funding to pilot a comprehensive opioid abuse program in Paterson. The proposal will include the creation of an Opioid Response Team, or ORT.
“Certainly (what) we’re seeing in our cities is linked to the drug trade and its violence linked over drug territories,” said Grewal. “We are taking this very seriously as far as our opioid epidemic is concerned.”
The Opioid Response Teams will be on call at all times to address those who have overdoses and emergencies. They will also be patrolling communities in search of people who need rehabilitation and help.
But that’s not enough: The city says a comprehensive plan is needed to address the violence.
This weekend it deployed its special operations team – a mix of federal, state and county officers – to hot spots. The move resulted in 30 arrests.
“Is the Special Operations Group enough if you just had 3-, 4-year-olds that were shot on Monday night?” said Grewal. “What I’m saying is we need to rethink how we are attacking this issue. That’s why in addition too what these brave men are doing to respond to these issues in Patterson, (is) to hold people accountable. We need to get to the root causes.”
Sayegh says Paterson has a reputation for drugs and that attracts more crime to it, so working on the city’s image will remain important.