Thursday, April 06, 2006

Crime Will Be Topic Of Conference Meeting

Among this year’s innovations, the City Council will hold several “working conference” meetings. The first one will be Monday (April 10, 2006) and the topic will be crime.

The council agreed recently to change its calendar from regular meetings on first and third Mondays, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays, to a format that sets agenda sessions on first and third Mondays with regular sessions on Wednesdays of the same week.

The schedule also calls for occasional “working conference” meetings on a single topic . As described in a recent “Rules of Order” document for the City Council, the working conference sessions will be used primarily for policy development. The main goal is to have council discussion and “formulation of policy.“

The public comment portion will be 15 minutes, according to the new rules.

At an April 4 meeting at the Plainfield Senior Center, City Administrator Carlton McGee characterized the April 10 meeting as a “hearing” where “testimony” would be taken in response to the recent spate of crimes in Plainfield.

McGee’s comments provoked several questions from seniors.

Inez Durham asked what the council expected to accomplish by holding such a meeting.

“What do they expect this meeting will do to stop crime this crime wave?” she asked.

Rasheed Abdul-Haqq recalled a crime hearing two decades ago and said one issue raised then was whether the city needs a public safety director as well as a police chief.

Another speaker said drug dealers keep returning to the Elmwood Gardens housing complex and residents then have to bring their children inside. Others said the hour was too late and the City Hall Library was too small to hold such a meeting.

But City Council President Ray Blanco later clarified that the April 10 meeting will not be a hearing, it will be a regular City Council meeting. He said Wednesday it will be held at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.

A notice with full details will be published in the newspapers.

Law enforcement officials from the city and county may be present to comment.

Plainfield’s top law enforcement entities are Public Affairs & Safety Director Martin Hellwig and Police Chief Edward Santiago, who recently won reinstatement to his post after a judge ruled his removal last month was incorrect.

Last year Plainfield had 15 homicides and so far this year the city has seen three homicides.

The recent homicides have spurred one resident to mount a campaign against violence.

Ruby White told the council last month her nephew and a grandson were fatal victims of gun violence. She will lead a march against violent crimes in the city on May 13, starting at Neighborhood House and ending at City Hall.

--Bernice Paglia


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