Safer summer: Trenton has been homicide free since June 1

The state Capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Evelyn Tu for WHYY)

The state Capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Evelyn Tu for WHYY)

New Jersey’s capital city got a break over the last three months. There has not been a homicide in Trenton since June 1.

According to city officials, there have been 12 homicides as of Aug. 31, compared to last year when there was 22. That’s a 46% reduction. Shooting deaths fell dramatically over the same time period, from 21 last year to eight this year.

This is great news for a city that broke its homicide record in 2020 and tied it by the end of last year.

“One of the things that we wanted to do was to see how we can increase policing, but also do alternatives to policing,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.

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Among those alternatives is the Trenton Community Street Teams, a group of people that includes residents reentering society who mediate conflicts in areas at high-risk for violent crime. It’s based on a similar concept enacted in Newark.

In June, the city kicked off its CHANGE Committee, an 11-member panel that is charged with reviewing and making recommendations on public safety.

Gusciora also pointed to youth initiatives, like hiring 200 young people for the summer and holding a youth camp.

The city also hired mental health counselors prior to the summer, as the police department increased the number of new officers. Also on the law enforcement side, the city opened a $4.5 million hub to monitor crime in real-time, working with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Office, and New Jersey State Police.

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Word of a peaceful three months comes after the City Council tried to oust Steve Wilson, the city’s current police director, earlier this year. Wilson, who was appointed to the job permanently last year, survived the effort to remove him in April.

The mayor praised Wilson for what he has  accomplished so far, despite unfounded claims from members of the city council about “carnage in the streets.”

“Director Wilson has done a wonderful job of bringing back morale to policing, but also to get those strategic partnerships,” Gusciora said. “That’s something that has not been done in the past.”

Gusciora hopes the peace remains on the streets of the capital city. He insists “we are not done, not by a mile.”

“It’s one of those … ‘all of the above,’ we work with police [and] work with community groups, and try to deal with crime in a holistic manner.”

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