Trenton mayor hopes addressing mental health will interrupt violence

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora

File photo: Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

There was a 45-day span between the record-tying homicide in 2021 and the first homicide of 2022 in New Jersey’s capital city.

The peace streak in Trenton broke Tuesday when 37-year-old Antwone Barnes was stabbed in his chest. He was pronounced dead in his apartment. The suspect, 38-year-old Tahira Young, was detained at the scene.

She has since been charged with murder and weapons offenses in Barnes’ death. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office described him as the suspect’s “on-again/off-again boyfriend.”

It’s the city’s first homicide.

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Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora said domestic homicides like the one that occurred this week are hard to predict, calling 45 days without a murder “progress.”

“We’re lifting ourselves out of COVID, and hopefully lifting ourselves out of the real violent crime that has rocked the nation no matter what city you go into,” he said.

In 2020, the city counted 40 homicides, breaking a previous record set in 2013. That number was tied in 2021.

The police director was fired last June as bloodshed kept pace with 2020.

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Gusciora said police officers are getting back into the neighborhoods and the city is adding mental health counselors.

“Hopefully with a mental health component, it will make the streets a lot safer,” he added.

Gusciora says that the city will bring in a street team, similar to one in Newark, where therapists and counselors are called in to interrupt violence. The tentative launch of the team is for May.

“We’re excited about this new opportunity to bring community policing straight into the streets and try to interrupt that violence that’s out there,” he said.

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