YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Officers from the crippled Paterson Police Department are distributing flyers on streetcorners in the hope that residents and business owners will rally to fight becoming the first industrialized city in America ever to have more firefighters than cops.
“Please don’t misunderstand: We’re not knocking the Fire Department,” said PBA President Alex Cruz told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon. “But right now, we’re at 140-plus officers down, with the 125 laid off and others who have retired or left without being replaced.
“That’s more than 25 percent of the workforce.”
At the same time, he said, overall crime has risen 19 percent.
“It’s a bad situation,” he said.
What the officers hope to do, Cruz told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , is present the facts on the two-sided flyer (SEE, below) and let citizens decide for themselves whether increased public safety is worth fighting for.
For instance, from April to November of 2010, before the city’s mass police layoffs, there were 34 shooting victims who died or required hospitalization. Over that same period this year: 65.
Last year, there were 29 shooting incidents.Paterson PBA President Alex Cruz
This year: 57.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Cruz said. “That’s a 99-percent increase.”
Auto thefts — often a product of unpatrolled streets — ballooned to 782 this year from 492 in 2010.
“We understand that everybody has to tighten their belts,” Cruz said. “But in the police department alone, including savings from retirements and laid-off officers, the total reduction in the budget the past fiscal year has been more than $3 million.”
Over that same period, he said, no firefighters were laid off.
“They even had promotions Nov. 1 and there is word that the DCA already approved the addition of 20 more firefighters,” Cruz told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
The officers have collectively decided not to picket City Hall. Rather, they’re going through the community, spreading the word on paper.
“Our message is simple,” Cruz said. “You are the voice. Here are the facts, here’s the research. Call your mayor, the council people, the DCA.
“In order to properly respond, we need the right number of personnel,” he said. “Not only is this a safety issue for the commuinty but also for the officers.”
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