PERTH AMBOY — Alan Silber sent this picture of a man sleeping on a bench in front of the bank on Smith Street and asked, “Do we blame Joe Vas?”
“This photo was taken at 11:00 o’clock Saturday morning Oct. 20, in front of the bank on Smith Street,” said Silber, a critic of Mayor Wilda Diaz, who is in a struggle with Billy Delgado to retain her job. “Is this the quality of life Perth Amboy wants? If it is, then you know exactly who you are going to vote for.”
Silber’s picture is a reminder that Diaz made an issue of unemployment and agencies that attract criminals to the city when she ran four years ago, but the number of jobless residents has doubled since she took over City Hall — as have the number of criminal service agencies.
“Jobs were created for people who do not live in Perth Amboy,” said Díaz, a few weeks before her May 13, 2008 showdown with the former mayor. “There has clearly been no benefit to homeowners whose taxes doubled, whose schools are more crowded and whose streets are rapidly becoming more unsafe… More Perth Amboy families face severe economic challenges, such as foreclosure and unemployment.”
Diaz, currently the highest paid mayor in Middlesex County, never sought to close the Middlesex County probation office at 262 State Street, directly across from McGinnis School, where defendants sentenced to probation, as well as Megan’s Law sex offenders, violent criminals, mental health cases, and drug addicts receive supervision.
Diaz also allows a private prison company to open a center that brings “High-Risk Parolees” from all over New Jersey to visit a centrally located neighborhood in the city. Behavioral Intervention opened the Community Resource Center at 207 New Brunswick Ave. Perth Amboy, about two blocks away from the Perth Amboy Public Library, for convicted criminals released on parole to make regular visits with staff who supervise their activities.
In her 2008 campaign against then-Mayor Joe Vas, Diaz complained that the city’s chief executive allowed a probation office to operate across the street from a school. But critics note that Diaz is close to Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose chief political advisor and former law partner, Bill Palatucci, is general counsel to the private prison company “Community Education Centers.”
The prison for profit industry is a controversial subject that has largely not been discussed among the public despite vast growth in recent years. At the same location as the criminal reporting center is God’s Army Ministries, two hair salons, a pizzeria, a doctor’s office and other retail establishments regularly visited by local residents unaware that they are among high risk parolees.