AG Announces Programs To Fight Gun Violence In Trenton

John J. Hoffman

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman

TRENTON – On a day when two city police officers were shot while escorting a domestic violence victim back to her home, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced a two-pronged strategy to combat gun violence in Trenton.

Hoffman’s plan will deploy more law enforcement personnel to suppress shootings in the most violent neighborhoods of the city, while focusing efforts on arresting and aggressively prosecuting gang members, repeat offenders and drug dealers who carry guns in public. The Attorney General called the record pace of murders in Trenton “catastrophic” and vowed to achieve results with the two new intensive programs.

Hoffman made the announcement at the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton with Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the State Police, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., and a host of other state, federal and local officials. Community leaders from Trenton also attended the announcement.

“The death earlier this month of Barry Church, an innocent man caught in crossfire while sitting on his porch, is emblematic of the escalating gun violence in Trenton, which is nothing short of catastrophic,” said Hoffman. “While gangsters and drug dealers are more likely to be gunned down, the truth is that nobody is safe from these brazen shootings and murders that occur even on busy streets in broad daylight. We won’t tolerate it, and we’re coming out in force. Our message to the thugs terrorizing Trenton is simple: Get your guns off the street, or we’re going to take you off the street.”

Hoffman announced these two new programs in Trenton:

1. The “Targeted Integrated Deployment Effort” (“TIDE”) is an intelligence-driven surge in deployments to suppress violent crime led by the State Police and involving State Police uniformed and investigative personnel – supplemented by other state, county and federal personnel – working in an integrated fashion with Trenton Police uniform patrols, warrant squads and detectives. The effort is focused on the East and West Wards, which have seen the most violence. TIDE includes high-visibility patrols during peak hours, as well as covert operations. TIDE was launched today with a targeted warrant sweep in which 15 fugitives were arrested for violent crimes and other offenses.

2. The “Targeted Anti-Gun (“TAG”) Initiative” is a new arrest and prosecution strategy that brings New Jersey’s tough gun laws to bear on gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders who carry guns in public. When those offenders are arrested by TIDE partners, the Attorney General has mandated a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy that will effectively increase the sentence imposed on “tagged” gun offenders – those in the targeted categories found in possession of a gun – to at least 3 ½ years in state prison without possibility of parole, up from the current norm of one year. The goal is to stop criminals from carrying guns, so street confrontations do not escalate spontaneously into shootings.

“It will take nothing less than a collaborative effort from law enforcement on every level to properly address the increase of gun violence that has plagued the city of Trenton,” said Fuentes. “These criminals must know that they will bear the full weight of law enforcement from the moment they hit the street with a gun in their waistband until the time the cell door slams behind them.”

“We cannot tolerate this tide of violence that has innocent bystanders being shot on their porches,” said Bocchini. “My office is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Attorney General, the New Jersey State Police and the Trenton police. I have assigned my first assistant prosecutor and senior legal staff to move TAG cases through the criminal justice system. These offenders can expect us to fight for high bails; they will see expedited indictments; and they can count on us to argue for stiff sentences.”

“The Trenton Police Department is committed to the collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners and the community,” said Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr. “We will continue to have an aggressive multi-agency approach toward arrests and prosecutions of violent offenders. We are going to engage our community to make these efforts sustainable and make this city a safer place to live, work, and invest in.”

There have been 29 murders in Trenton this year, already surpassing the total of 24 for all of 2012 and rapidly approaching the city’s record high of 31 murders in 2005. Four murders occurred in the first weekend of August, when Barry Church, 52, was killed on his porch on East State Street. The three other men who were killed that weekend were 20, 21 and 22 years old.

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